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Outcomes Associated with the Internal Fixation of Long-Bone Fractures Proximal to Traumatic Amputations

Gordon, Wade T. MD, MC, USAF; O'Brien, Frederick P. MD, MC, USA; Strauss, Joseph E. DO, MC, USN; Andersen, Romney C. MD, MC, USA; Potter, Benjamin K. MD, MC, USA

Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery - American Volume: 6 October 2010 - Volume 92 - Issue 13 - p 2312–2318
doi: 10.2106/JBJS.J.00138
Scientific Articles

Background: Preservation of optimal residual limb length following a traumatic amputation can be challenging. The purpose of this study was to determine if acceptable results can be achieved by definitive fixation of a long-bone fracture proximal to a traumatic amputation.

Methods: We identified thirty-seven active-duty military service members who underwent internal fixation of a long-bone fracture proximal to a traumatic amputation. Functional status was assessed with the Tegner activity level scale and prosthesis use. Secondary outcome measures were the development of nonunion, infection, and heterotopic ossification.

Results: Twelve patients (32%) underwent amputation and fracture in the same osseous segment. Ten patients (27%) sustained bilateral traumatic amputations, and eight (22%) had a major fracture of the contralateral extremity. The median times to fracture fixation and amputation closure were twelve days and nineteen days, respectively, after the injury. The mean Tegner activity score was 3.32 (range, 1 to 6); patients with isolated extremity injuries had significantly higher Tegner scores than those with severe bilateral injuries (3.59 and 2.38, respectively; p = 0.04). Thirty-three patients (89%) developed an infection requiring surgical debridement. However, all fractures were treated until union occurred, and amputation level salvage was successful in all instances. Heterotopic ossification developed in twenty-eight patients (76%), with operative excision required in eleven patients (39%).

Conclusions: High complication rates, but acceptable final results, can be achieved with internal fixation of a fracture proximal to a traumatic amputation to preserve functional joint levels or salvage residual limb length.

Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

1Integrated Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue N.W., Building 2, Clinic 5A-Ortho, Washington, DC 20307. E-mail address for W.T. Gordon: wade.gordon@amedd.army.mil

Copyright 2010 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
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