Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the results and complications of free vascularized fibular grafting (FVFG) for the reconstruction of bone defects in Gustilo Type 3 open tibia fractures.
Methods: Free vascularized fibular grafting was performed on open tibia fractures with a bone defect of an average of 10 (range: 6 to 18) cm in 21 patients (19 males, 2 females; mean age: 32 years; range: 16 to 47 years). Primary FVFG was performed for 15 patients with open fractures and secondary FVFG in 6 patients with osteomyelitis due to open fractures or defective nonunions. Bony unions were evaluated retrospectively. At a mean follow-up time of 74 (range: 18 to 216) months, 18 patients were examined for malalignment, shortness, and range of motion. Quality of life was evaluated using the Short Form 36 (SF-36).
Results: Mean bony union times for the proximal and distal fibula were 19 (range: 16 to 24) weeks and 20 (range: 16 to 28) weeks, respectively. Proximal nonunion was detected in three patients. Mean external fixation removal time was 6.3 (range: 3 to 14) months. Stress fractures occurred in 15 patients following fixator removal. Malalignment of over 5 degrees was detected in 7 patients and shortness over 2 cm was detected in 4 patients. SF-36 scores were significantly lower in the domains of physical functioning, role limitation due to physical problems, bodily pain, general perception of health, social function, and role limitation due to emotional problems. Mental health, energy and vitality were similar to the healthy reference group.
Conclusion: Free vascularized fibular grafting appears to be a reliable and effective method for reconstructing bone defects and soft tissue defects in a single session in open tibia fractures.