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Primary Closure of Wide Fasciotomy and Surgical Wounds Using Rubber Band–Assisted External Tissue Expansion

A Simple, Safe, and Cost-effective Technique

Kenny, Elizabeth M. BS; Egro, Francesco M. MBChB, MSc, MRCS; Russavage, James M. DMD, MD; Spiess, Alexander M. MD; Acartürk, Tahsin Oğuz MD

doi: 10.1097/SAP.0000000000001506
Reconstructive Surgery

Background Although decompressive fasciotomy is a limb-saving procedure in the setting of acute compartment syndrome, it leaves a large wound defect with tissue edema and skin retraction that can preclude primary closure. Numerous techniques have been described to address the challenge of closing fasciotomy wounds. This study reports our experience with fasciotomy closure using rubber bands (RBs) for external tissue expansion.

Methods Patients were informed about RB closure and split-thickness skin graft options. Only patients who opted for RB closure and had wounds that could not be approximated using the pinch test underwent the procedure. Starting from the apex and progressively advancing, the RBs were applied to the skin edges at 3 to 4 mm intervals using staples. The RBs were advanced by twisting back-and-forth to create a criss-cross pattern. One week after application, fasciotomy wounds were closed primarily or underwent further RB application, based on clinical assessment of adequacy of skin advancement, compartment tension, and perfusion. Review of a prospectively maintained database was performed, including demographics, comorbidities, etiology, wound and operative details, hospital stay, and complications.

Results Seventeen consecutive patients with 25 wounds (22 fasciotomy and 3 other surgical wounds) were treated using the RB technique. Average wound length and width measured 15.7 cm (range, 5–32 cm) and 5.2 cm (range, 1–12 cm), respectively. Locations of wounds included forearm (n = 12, 48.0%), leg (n = 7, 28.0%), hand (n = 4, 16.0%), elbow (n = 1, 4.0%), and hip (n = 1, 4.0%). Eighteen of 25 wounds (72.0%) were closed primarily after 1 RB application. Additional RB application was required for 5 wounds to achieve primary closure. Between stages, patients were discharged home if they did not have other conditions requiring in-hospital stay. No complications were observed, and no revision surgeries were required. Patient satisfaction was 100%, and all indicated that they would choose the RB technique over skin grafting.

Conclusions The modified RB technique is a simple, safe, and cost-effective alternative for treating fasciotomy and other surgical defects resulting in high patient satisfaction and good cosmetic outcome, without the need for split-thickness skin graft or flap coverage.

From the Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA.

Received December 13, 2017, and accepted for publication, after revision March 21, 2018.

Conflicts of interest and sources of funding: none declared.

Reprints: Tahsin Oğuz Acartürk, MD, Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 3550 Terrace St, 6B Scaife Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15261. E-mail:

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