Three-stage limb salvage in tibial fracture related infection with composite bone and soft-tissue defect

Pablo S. Corona, Carla Carbonell-Rosell, Matías Vicente, Jordi Serracanta, Kevin Tetsworth, Vaida Glatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Introduction: Managing critical-sized tibial defects is one of the most complex challenges orthopedic surgeons face. This is even more problematic in the presence of infection and soft-tissue loss. The purpose of this study is to describe a comprehensive three-stage surgical protocol for the reconstruction of infected tibial injuries with combined bone defects and soft-tissue loss, and report the clinical outcomes. Materials and methods: A retrospective study at a specialized limb reconstruction center identified all patients with infected tibial injuries with bone and soft-tissue loss from 2010 through 2018. Thirty-one patients were included. All cases were treated using a three-stage protocol: (1) infected limb damage control; (2) soft-tissue coverage with a vascularized or local flap; (3) definitive bone reconstruction using distraction osteogenesis principles with external fixation. Primary outcomes: limb salvage rate and infection eradication. Secondary outcomes: patient functional outcomes and satisfaction. Results: Patients in this series of chronically infected tibias had been operated upon 3.4 times on average before starting our limb salvage protocol. The mean soft-tissue and bone defect sizes were 124 cm2 (6–600) and 5.4 cm (1–23), respectively. A free flap was performed in 67.7% (21/31) of the cases; bone transport was the selected bone-reconstructive option in 51.7% (15/31). Local flap failure rate was 30% (3/10), with 9.5% for free flaps (2/21). Limb salvage rate was 93.5% (29/31), with infection eradicated in all salvaged limbs. ASAMI bone score: 100% good/excellent. Mean VAS score was 1.0, and ASAMI functional score was good/excellent in 86% of cases. Return-to-work rate was 83%; 86% were “very satisfied” with the treatment outcome. Conclusion: A three-stage surgical approach to treat chronically infected tibial injuries with combined bone and soft-tissue defects yields high rates of infection eradication and successful limb salvage, with favorable functional outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3877-3887
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Bone transport
  • Distraction osteogenesis
  • Fasciocutaneous free flap
  • Infected tibial injury
  • Limb salvage
  • Limb-threatening injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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