Background: Traditionally, management of exposed hardware has included irrigation and débridement, intravenous antibiotics, and likely removal of the hardware. Increasingly, the goal of wound closure without hardware removal using plastic surgical techniques of soft-tissue reconstruction has been emphasized. Identification of parameters for retaining exposed hardware may assist surgeons with management decisions and outcomes.
Methods: A current literature review was performed to identify parameters with prognostic relevance for management of exposed hardware before soft-tissue reconstruction.
Results: The following parameters were identified as important for the potential salvage of exposed hardware with soft-tissue coverage: hardware location, infection, duration of exposure, and presence of hardware loosening.
Conclusions: Management of exposed hardware has included the removal of the hardware. However, if certain criteria are met--specifically, stable hardware, time of exposure less than 2 weeks, lack of infection, and location of hardware--salvage of the hardware with plastic surgical soft-tissue coverage may be a therapeutic option.