Delayed Primary Closure of Fasciotomy Incisions in the Lower Leg: Do We Need to Change Our Strategy?

J Orthop Trauma. 2015 Jul;29(7):308-11. doi: 10.1097/BOT.0000000000000278.


Objectives: The primary purpose of this study is to determine whether a strategy of bringing patients back to the operating room for successive debridements allows for the eventual delayed primary closure (DPC) of fasciotomy wounds.

Design: Retrospective cohort study. Data were collected from medical records and radiographs.

Setting: Two urban level 1 trauma centers.

Patients: One hundred four adult patients with acute compartment syndrome in the setting of a tibia fracture (open or closed).

Intervention: All patients underwent decompressive fasciotomies with closure by either DPC or split-thickness skin grafting (STSG) during a subsequent surgical procedure.

Main outcome measure: Number of fasciotomy wounds closed by DPC after the initial fasciotomy procedure.

Results: Of the 104 patients brought to the operating room for their first debridement after their fasciotomies, 19 patients (18%) were treated with DPC, whereas 42 patients (40%) were closed with STSG because they were believed to be too swollen to allow for primary closure by the treating surgeon. Three of the remaining 43 patients were treated with DPC during their second debridement. No patients who underwent more than 2 washouts could be treated with DPC. No patients who sustained open fractures were able to be closed by DPC (P = 0.02). Patients who underwent STSG on their first postfasciotomy procedure had a significantly shorter hospital stay than patients who underwent additional procedures before closure (12.2 vs. 17.4 days; P = 0.005).

Conclusions: Fasciotomy wounds that are not able to be primarily closed during their first postfasciotomy surgical procedure are rarely closed through DPC techniques. Early skin grafting of these wounds should be considered, especially in the clinical setting of an open injury, because it significantly decreases the length of hospital stay. Other techniques that avoid repeated debridements and attempted closures might also help reduce hospital stay.

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Compartment Syndromes / complications
  • Compartment Syndromes / surgery
  • Debridement / methods*
  • Dermatologic Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Fasciotomy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / surgery*
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tibial Fractures / complications
  • Tibial Fractures / surgery
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / surgery*
  • Young Adult