It is common practice to keep those patients with lower extremity autografts immobile until post-operative day (POD) 5. There is however inherent risks associated with even short periods of immobility. As of now there are no randomized controlled trials looking at early ambulation of patients with lower extremity autografts in the burn community.
The objective of this study was to show that patients who begin ambulation within 24 hours of lower extremity autografting will have no increased risk of graft failure than those patients who remain immobile until POD 5. Thirty-one subjects who received autografts to the lower extremity were randomized after surgery into either the early ambulation group (EAG;17 subjects) or the standard treatment group (STG;14 subjects). Those subjects randomized to the EAG began ambulating with physical therapy on POD 1. Subjects in the STG maintained bed rest until POD 5. There was no difference in the number of patients with graft loss in either the EAG or STG on POD 5, and during any of the follow-up visits. No subjects required regrafting. There was a significant difference in the mean minutes of ambulation, with the EAG ambulating longer than the STG (EAG 23.4 minutes [SD 12.03], STG 14.1 [SD 9.00], P=.0235) on POD 5. Burn patients with lower extremity autografts can safely ambulate on POD 1 without fear of graft failure compared with those patients that remain on bed rest for 5 days.