The treatment of gustilo grade IIIB tibia fractures with application of antibiotic spacer, flap, and sequential distraction osteogenesis

James J. Hutson, Deniz Dayicioglu, John Christopher Oeltjen, Zubin J. Panthaki, Milton B. Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Gustilo grade III (GIII) B-C open tibia shaft fractures have a wide spectrum of injury to the bone and soft tissues. At the severe end of the spectrum are GIII B tibia fractures that combine segmental bone loss with soft tissue injuries which require flap reconstruction. These complex injuries can be treated combining circular tensioned wire fixation and distraction histiogenesis with flap reconstruction. GIII B tibia shaft fractures were retrospectively reviewed at an urban Level One Trauma Center from 1992 to 2008 which were treated with the Ilizarov method. Seventy-six patients with 78 fractures were treated. Thirty-eight fractures were treated with flaps. Out of this cohort, a subset of 19 fractures were treated using the protocol of initial multiple debridements, half pin resuscitation external fixation, soft tissue reconstruction over antibiotic spacers and delayed Ilizarov reconstruction after stabilization of the soft tissue envelope.The fractures had multiple aggressive debridements removing nonviable bone. Thirteen free flaps and 6 rotation flaps were applied. Flaps were applied a mean time of 34 days (12-77) after initial injury. Two free flaps failed and had a second successful application. Flap survival was 17 of 19 (89%). There was one partial necrosis and one flap hematoma. There was no flap complication from delayed elevation and spacer removal. Mean tibial bone defect was 9.4 cm (5-17). Reconstruction time was 26.5 months (12-73). Eighteen of 19 fractures were reconstructed with union and no deep infection or osteomyelitis. One fracture had a hypertrophic nonunion in a noncompliant patient.The use of antibiotic spacers and flaps to construct a soft tissue tunnel combined with distraction histiogenesis is an effective technique to salvage complex GIII B tibia fractures with segmental bone loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-552
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2010


  • Bone gap
  • Flap
  • Grade IIIB tibia fracture
  • Ilizarov
  • Spacer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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