Use of a continuous external tissue expander in the conversion of a type IIIB fracture to a type IIIA fracture.

Research paper by Peter P Formby, James J Flint, Wade T WT Gordon, Mark M Fleming, Romney C RC Andersen

Indexed on: 07 Feb '13Published on: 07 Feb '13Published in: Orthopedics


Various methods have been used for soft tissue coverage of Gustilo-Anderson type IIIB open fractures. These injuries are often contaminated and, by definition, are associated with extensive periosteal stripping and inadequate soft tissue coverage. These characteristics predispose the patient to infection, delayed union, nonunion, and the likelihood of multiple surgeries to achieve durable soft tissue coverage. Although free tissue transfer and rotational flap coverage are the mainstay of treatment for Gustilo-Anderson type IIIB fractures, these procedures typically require additional modalities, such as local wound care, negative-pressure wound therapy, and skin grafting, to expedite wound coverage. Numerous undesirable aspects of these tissue coverage techniques exist, including the requirement for repeated application, potential anesthesia complications, near-constant surveillance, patient compliance, graft failure, and cost. External tissue expanders offer the surgeon a device that can rapidly facilitate closure of full-thickness soft tissue defects. This technique offers the benefit of a 1-time application that is easy to apply and cost-effective and can significantly improve fracture coverage options with a cosmetically acceptable result. Although this technique has been previously described for fasciotomy and ulcer coverage, to the authors' knowledge, continuous external expansion has never been reported in open fracture wound management, specifically in converting type IIIB to type IIIA open fractures. The authors' early success with this method indicates that it may be a valuable tool in the management of Gustilo-Anderson type IIIB open fractures.