Background: Investigators have recommended aggressive use of skin-grafting in order to preserve length and proximal joint function following an acquired amputation in children. However, there is little objective evidence to either support or refute that recommendation. Methods: We performed a retrospective review of the cases of all children for whom a skin graft had been applied to the residual limb following an acquired lower-extremity amputation at our Limb Deficiency Clinic between 1984 and 2002. Skin graft dysfunction, defined as breakdown, contracture, and/or pain, was considered to be clinically relevant if it required the child to discontinue use of the prosthesis for any period of time or if it required revision surgery to facilitate continued prosthetic fitting. Results: Twenty-three children (mean age at amputation, 4.4 years) with a total of thirty-one acquired lower-extremity amputations had been treated with skin-grafting. At a mean of 6.3 years after the operation, sixteen (52%) of the thirty-one extremities had had no episodes of skin graft dysfunction. The remaining fifteen extremities (48%) had had clinically relevant skin graft dysfunction (breakdown in thirteen and contracture and pain in one extremity each). Nine of the ten extensive skin grafts underwent clinically relevant breakdown, as did thirteen of the twenty-four grafts that were located distally on the residual limb. Subsequent surgical revision of the residual limb because of inadequate function of the skin graft was performed on seven extremities (23%), with revision to a more proximal limb-segment level required in five. Conclusions: Focal skin-grafting (involving ≤25% of the surface area) of partial-thickness soft-tissue defects in order to optimize the length of the residual limb at the time of an amputation is an effective option for children with an acquired lower-extremity amputation. Limited skin-grafting (involving 26% to 50% of the surface area) is more likely to result in skin graft breakdown, particularly when it is done distally. Extensive skin-grafting, while technically possible, frequently requires revision and rarely results in an optimally functioning limb. Alternative treatment strategies should be considered for extremities that would require extensive, distal skin-grafting. Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine