Background: Decision-making in the management of combined major skeletal and soft tissue trauma to the lower limb is a complex process made more difficult by the uncertainty surrounding outcomes. The aim of this study was to review and present our experience with flap reconstruction of traumatic lower limb defects, with particular reference to in-hospital complications and outcomes related to timing, choice of flap and pre-existing complications. Methods: Retrospective review of all lower limb flap reconstructions carried out by the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Unit at the Alfred Hospital from 1 July 2001 to 20 October 2005 (51-month period) was carried out. Results: Sixty-four patients had 83 flap reconstructions (35 free and 48 local) of 70 separate lower limb injuries. Internal skeletal fixation was followed by earlier soft tissue coverage and lower deep metal infection rates. Twenty-seven flaps (32.5%) developed soft tissue infections, and 16 fixation devices (25.8%) were complicated by deep metal infection. There were six (12.5%) local flap partial necrosis and four (11.4%) free flap failures. Limbs in which flaps were carried out after day 5 were more likely to develop deep metal infection (P = 0.04) and suffer free flap failure or local flap partial necrosis (P = 0.02). Three patients underwent secondary amputation during their initial admission. Conclusions: The current study presented our experience with flap reconstruction of complex lower limb injuries at a major trauma centre. Thorough wound debridement, internal fixation and early soft tissue coverage (within 5 days of injury) were associated with lower infection rates and optimal outcomes.
- Lower limb