Analysis of single-incision versus dual-incision fasciotomy for tibial fractures with acute compartment syndrome

J Orthop Trauma. 2013 Nov;27(11):607-11. doi: 10.1097/BOT.0b013e318291f284.


Objectives: To analyze the rate of postoperative infection and nonunion after tibial fractures in patients treated for acute compartment syndrome (ACS) using (1) single-incision versus (2) dual-incision fasciotomy technique.

Design: Retrospective.

Setting: Level I trauma center.

Patients: Review of all adult tibial fractures operatively treated (n = 2756) over a 12-year period identified 175 patients with concurrent ACS requiring fasciotomy. Of 60 patients treated with intramedullary nails, 36 patients had single-incision fasciotomy and 24 had dual-incision fasciotomy. Of 81 patients treated with plate fixation, 59 patients had single-incision fasciotomy and 22 had dual-incision fasciotomy.

Intervention: Tibial fixation with fasciotomy for ACS.

Main outcome measurements: Occurrence of postoperative infection and nonunion.

Results: Both fasciotomy groups were similar across recorded patient and treatment characteristics. Need for skin graft was similar between fasciotomy groups. For patients treated with intramedullary nail (n = 60), 1 infection (2.8%) occurred in single-incision group versus 2 (8.3%) in dual-incision group (P = 0.558). Seven nonunions (19.4%) occurred in single-incision group versus 3 (12.5%) in dual-incision group (P = 0.726). For plate fixation patients (n = 81), 15 infections (25.4%) occurred with single-incision fasciotomy versus 5 infections (22.7%) with dual-incision fasciotomy (P = 1.000). Seven nonunions (11.9%) occurred with single-incision group versus 4 nonunions (18.2%) with dual-incision group (P = 0.479).

Conclusions: This is the first study to compare a single-incision fasciotomy technique to a dual-incision technique in the setting of tibial fractures with ACS, with similar infection and nonunion rates with either technique. The choice of fasciotomy technique can be based on surgeon experience or patient condition as opposed to a suspected elevated infection or nonunion risk with either technique.

Level of evidence: Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Plates
  • Compartment Syndromes / etiology*
  • Compartment Syndromes / surgery*
  • Fasciotomy*
  • Fracture Fixation, Intramedullary / methods*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Transplantation
  • Tendons / surgery
  • Tibial Fractures / complications*
  • Tibial Fractures / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult