Soft Tissue Management in Open Fractures of the Lower Leg: The Role of Vacuum Therapy

Rancan, Mario ; Keel, Marius

In: European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery, 2009, vol. 35, no. 1, p. 10-16

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    Abstract : The management of severe open fractures of the lower leg continues to challenge the treating surgeon. Major difficulties include high infection rates as well as adequate temporary soft tissue coverage. In the past, these injuries were commonly associated with loss of the extremity. Today, vacuum therapy provides not only safe temporary wound coverage but also conditioning of the soft tissues until definitive wound closure. Amongst other advantages, bacterial clearance and increased formation of granulation tissue are attributed to vacuum therapy, making it an extremely attractive tool in the field of wound healing. However, despite its clinical significance, which is underlined by a constantly increasing range of indications, there is a substantial lack of basic research and well-designed studies documenting the superiority of vacuum therapy compared to alternative wound dressings. Vacuum therapy has been approved as an adjunct in the treatment of severe open fractures of the lower leg, complementing repeated surgical debridement and soft tissue coverage by microvascular flaps, which are still crucial in the treatment of these limb-threatening injuries. Vacuum therapy has in general proven useful in the management of soft tissue injuries and, since it is generally well tolerated and has low complication rates, it is fast becoming the gold standard for temporary wound coverage in the treatment of severe open fractures of the lower leg