The Reconstructive Allograft Preparation by Toronto Sarcoma (RAPTORS) protocol is reliable and reproducible without substantially adding to the surgical reconstruction time or cost. Our technique includes clearance of debris, lavage of the medullary canal, pressurized filling of the medullary canal with antibiotic-laden cement for its mechanical and antimicrobial properties, and insertion of cancellous autograft at the allograft-host junctional ends prior to dual-plate compression to fix the allograft into the defect1–3. Our experience with large intercalary allograft reconstruction has demonstrated high rates of long-term success and addresses the most common causes of large allograft failure (infection, fracture, and nonunion)4, as shown in our long-term outcome study1.
Once the tumor is resected, it is used as a template for cutting and shaping the allograft to fit the bone defect and to restore length and anatomy. The frozen allograft is thawed in a container with povidone iodine and bacitracin saline solution until it reaches room temperature. The allograft is size-matched, and clearance of its intramedullary marrow contents is performed with use of curets and intramedullary reamers7. If 1 end of the allograft includes the metaphysis and is covered by dense cancellous bone, we try not to ream through this end because maintaining this metaphyseal cancellous surface will expedite bone healing. The segment is then thoroughly lavaged with “triple wash” solutions to clear out any remaining marrow contents and to ensure sterilization of the allograft. This serial-wash technique involves the use of 3 discrete antiseptic modalities and has been utilized at our institution with low rates of allograft infection. These antiseptic modalities include 10% weight-per-volume povidone iodine diluted 1:1 with normal saline solution, 3% weight-per-volume hydrogen peroxide diluted 1:1 with normal saline solution, and 50,000 units of sterile bacitracin lyophilized powder dissolved in 500 mL of normal saline solution. Following the triple wash, the medullary canal is filled with antibiotic-laden methylmethacrylate bone cement. If both ends are open, the far end of the segment is first plugged with the surgeon’s finger or with gauze, or if 1 end is covered with cancellous bone, then retrograde filling of the canal with cement is performed from the open end. The cement is then pressurized to ensure complete filling of the intramedullary space. Before it sets, 1 cm of cement is removed from each open end of the allograft to allow for packing of autograft bone cancellous chips and to ensure that cement does not impede anatomic reduction of the allograft-host bone junction. For this step, cancellous autograft from the iliac crest is harvested with use of a separate sterile surgical setup in order to prevent contamination of the autograft site by instruments used for tumor resection. The cancellous autograft is packed into the space created after recessing the cement at the end(s) of the allograft and, using a bone tamp, the autograft is compressed into this cavity and into the corresponding end of the host long bone in order to improve the healing potential at the allograft-host bone junction(s)8. Finally, a dual compression plate construct is utilized for upper as well as lower-extremity reconstructions in most cases. The cement in the allograft must be completely hardened before drilling into it. The allograft-host bone junctions are sequentially compressed at both the proximal and distal ends to allow for maximal apposition of the osseous surfaces. Only 1 or 2 unicortical screws are placed into the allograft to hold it in place and to facilitate maximal compression at both bone junctions. Patient compliance during postoperative rehabilitation is essential to optimize healing and provide reliable and durable outcomes. Postoperative care following the RAPTORS technique includes limited early rehabilitation and long periods of non-weight-bearing until radiographic union is noted across both bone junctions, followed by gradual resumption of weight-bearing and more aggressive physiotherapy. See the Appendix for further details regarding each step of the procedure.
Intercalary reconstruction alternatives include various biological or endoprosthetic constructs. The other biological reconstruction options include the use of a free vascularized bone graft, distraction osteogenesis, combined vascularized fibula and allograft (i.e., the Capanna technique), or recycled tumor bones. Intercalary prostheses offer another reconstruction option for diaphyseal defects, but their feasibility is more limited in cases of periarticular segments with very short residual medullary canals. In such cases, there may be inadequate stem length for fixation, or the segment may require a custom implant that takes time to design and manufacture, which can be associated with high costs5.
Major factors limiting the widespread use of allografts include infection, graft fracture, graft nonunion, and, in some locations, availability4,6. Our technique of allograft preparation with dual compression plating and triple-washing to provide mechanical and antimicrobial protection as well as augmented healing has shown reproducible results with low complication rates compared with the literature.
There have been high rates of long-term allograft survival (84.4%) following intercalary long-bone reconstruction at our institution, with lower complication rates than those presented in the literature.
- Transverse osteotomies of the allograft, made perpendicular to the long axis of the diaphysis/anatomical axis, are important to replicate the resected host bone. Transverse osteotomies, while inherently less stable than step-cut ones, allow for adjusting the rotation of the allograft segment as needed for maximal contact and compression, as well as restoration of anatomical limb rotation.
- It is important to perform meticulous clearance of the intramedullary contents while preserving the endosteal bone and allograft integrity. We would utilize hand-reaming rather than a power drill device, in order to prevent overreaming or breaking through the allograft bone.
- Place as few unicortical screws as possible into the allograft-cement construct in order to maintain its structural strength and minimize potential sites for vascular ingrowth and bone resorption.
Acronyms & Abbreviations:
- K-wires = Kirschner wires
- W/V = weight per volume