BACKGROUND: Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) is a widely accepted method of temporary coverage for complex lower extremity wounds before definitive reconstruction. However, the precise role of NPWT in the perioperative management of patients with complicated lower extremity injuries remains unclear. In this study, we examine the effect of NPWT on flap complications and overall outcomes based on timing of soft-tissue reconstruction relative to initial injury and implementation of NPWT. METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 32 consecutive patients presenting to a single institution receiving lower extremity reconstruction after Gustilo class IIIB or IIIC open tibial fractures over a 5-y period. Length of hospitalization, number of surgical procedures, flap failure, infection, and nonunion were parameters of interest in this study. RESULTS: The incidence of complications in patients treated with NPWT was lower compared with patients who underwent wet-to-dry dressing changes, regardless of when surgery was performed. The highest rate of complications was observed in patients operated on >6 wk after injury and who received wet-to-dry dressing changes wound care. By comparison, those who underwent surgery within 1 wk of injury and who were bridged with NPWT had the lowest rate of complications. CONCLUSIONS: The use of NPWT therapy in the perioperative management of patients with open lower extremity fractures reduces complication rates associated with limb salvage surgery. Our results suggest that NPWT can be used as a temporizing measure to optimize patients before flap surgery, effectively lengthening the window of opportunity for definitive reconstruction.
- Negative pressure wound therapy
- Reconstructive surgery
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