Management of severe musculoskeletal injuries of the upper extremity.
Limb salvage was successful in 25 patients treated for severe grade III upper extremity injuries. In a retrospective review of 20 men and five women, follow-up time averaged 26 months. These high-energy injuries were characterized by massive soft-tissue injury, highly comminuted fractures, and significant neurovascular injury. Farm, industrial, and vehicular accidents accounted for 80% of the cases. Over 50% of the patients had concomitant systemic and/or other significant extremity injuries. Initial treatment consisted of irrigation and debridement and fracture stabilization using external and/or internal fixation. An average of four additional surgical procedures was required to provide soft-tissue coverage and maximum possible functional recovery. Forty-eight percent of the extremities underwent free vascularized or pedicular flaps for coverage or reconstruction. At final follow-up observation, 12% of the extremities rated excellent, 20% rated good, 52% fair, and 16% were poor. Experience gained in managing these severe upper extremity fractures supports the following observations. (a) Grade III open fractures of the upper extremities are frequently associated with significant neural, vascular, and musculotendon injuries. (b) External fixation plays an important role in the stabilization of grossly contaminated fractures. (c) Residual functional disability is common, and most patients do not return to their previous occupation. (d) Staged reconstruction directed toward maximum functional return may take several years.
Levin, LS; Goldner, RD; Urbaniak, JR; Nunley, JA; Hardaker, WT
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