Is staged external fixation a valuable strategy for war injuries to the limbs?

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2006 Jul;448:217-24. doi: 10.1097/01.blo.0000214411.60722.f8.


High-energy weapons or blast injuries usually result in substantial tissue damage and are serious medical and public health problems. We report our experience with staged external fixation for war injuries to the extremities. Forty-seven patients with 64 high-energy limb fractures caused by war weapons were retrospectively reviewed. The fractures were associated with severe soft tissue damage. There were 14 Gustilo-Anderson Type IIIA fractures, 40 Type IIIB fractures, and 10 Type IIIC fractures. Soft tissue d├ębridement followed by axial realignment of the fractured bones with immediate skeletal stabilization using the AO/ASIF unilateral tubular external fixator was performed on the day of admission. The primary tubular fixators were exchanged 5 to 7 days later for Ilizarov frames. Delayed primary closure, skin grafts, or flaps were used for soft tissue coverage. The mean followup was 40 months, and the Ilizarov/hybrid external fixator was the definitive treatment in all patients. Bone union was achieved at an average of 8 months in 58 (90.6%) fractures. Three patients had nonunions and one patient required an amputation. Two patients were lost to followup. Staged external fixation is a valuable strategy for treatment of war injuries to the extremities.

Level of evidence: Therapeutic study, Level IV. See the Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blast Injuries / complications*
  • External Fixators*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Fractures, Bone / surgery*
  • Hand Bones / injuries*
  • Hand Bones / surgery
  • Humans
  • Ilizarov Technique / instrumentation
  • Leg Bones / injuries*
  • Leg Bones / surgery
  • Male
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Warfare*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / complications*