Traumatized lower extremities may present not only composite soft-tissue defects but also flexor and/or extensor loss. Free functioning muscle transfer can provide composite structural and functional restoration.
From 1996 to 2004, 19 patients with lower extremity injuries whose lesions exhibited composite soft-tissue damage, with or without bone defects, and certain accompanying functional disabilities were allocated to study groups on the basis of impression, as follows: group I, open fracture IIIB (n = 10); group II, neglected compartment syndromes [open IIIB (n = 4) and open IIIC (n = 1)]; and group III, crush injuries (n = 4). Free flap resurfacing was indicated for these lesions. Fifteen patients underwent free functioning muscle transfer; source muscles were the rectus femoris (n = 3), rectus femoris with anterolateral thigh flap (n = 5), and gracilis (for ankle dorsiflexion) (n = 7). Two patients underwent composite rectus femoris and vascular iliac crest for ankle dorsiflexion and segmental tibial defect reconstruction. Two received rectus femoris muscle and anterolateral thigh flaps for posterior compartment defect and quadriceps defect reconstruction, individually.
Two patients required reexploration; salvage was successful in only one, with below-knee amputation necessary in the other. Skin grafts were needed for partial skin paddle necrosis (n = 3) or remaining skin defect (n = 2). Functioning muscle reinnervation failed in four cases, with one individual undergoing ankle fusion, two people electing ambulation with stiff ankles, and one person using an orthosis. In the sample population, range of motion varied and was related to the severity of injury and the extent of skin grafting on the distal musculotendinous portion. Less function was exhibited in the compartment syndrome group (group II).
Functioning muscle transfer can be performed posttraumatically in lower limbs with composite soft-tissue and motor-unit defects, resulting in acceptable functional results and reliable limb salvage.