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Infection and Nonunion After Fasciotomy for Compartment Syndrome Associated With Tibia Fractures: A Matched Cohort Comparison.

OBJECTIVES: The objective was to compare the rates of union and infection in patients treated with and without fasciotomy for acute compartment syndrome (ACS) in operatively managed tibia fractures.

DESIGN: This was a retrospective review.

SETTING: The study was conducted at both a Level 1 and Level II trauma center.

PATIENTS/PARTICIPANTS: Patients operated for tibial plateau fractures (group 1) and tibial shaft fractures (group 3) with ACS requiring fasciotomy were matched to patients without ACS (plateau: group 2, shaft: group 4) in a 1:3 ratio for age, sex, fracture pattern, and open/closed injury.

INTERVENTION: Surgical treatment was provided with plates/screws (plateau fractures) or intramedullary rod (shaft fractures). Patients with ACS were treated with a 2-incision 4-compartment fasciotomy.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: Time to union and incidence of deep infection, nonunion, and delayed union.

RESULTS: One hundred eighty-four patients were included-group 1: 23 patients, group 2: 69 patients, group 3: 23 patients, and group 4: 69 patients. Time to union averaged 26.8 weeks for groups 1 and 3 and 21.5 weeks for groups 2 and 4 (P > 0.05). Nonunion occurred in 20% for groups 1 and 3 and in 5% for groups 2 and 4 (P = 0.003). Deep infection developed in 20% for groups 1 and 3 and in 4% for groups 2 and 4 (P = 0.001). There was a significant increase in infection in group 1 versus group 2 and nonunion in group 3 versus group 4. There were significantly more smokers for those with fasciotomies (46%) than without (20%, P < 0.001), though all statistical results remained similar after a binary regression analysis.

CONCLUSION: Four-compartment fasciotomies in patients with tibial shaft or plateau fractures is associated with a significant increase in infection and nonunion.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Prognostic level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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