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Free flap transplantation combined with skin grafting and vacuum sealing drainage for repair of circumferential or sub-circumferential soft-tissue wounds of the lower leg

Run-guang Li, Gao-hong Ren, Xiong-jin Tan, Bin Yu, Ji-jie Hu

Med Sci Monit 2013; 19:510-517

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.883963

Available online:

Published: 2013-06-28


Background: This study is aimed at evaluating the operation techniques and clinical significance of free flap transplantation combined with skin grafting and vacuum sealing drainage (VSD) in repairing severe traumatic extensive circumferential or semi-circumferential soft-tissue defects of the lower leg.
Material and Methods: Thirty patients with severe lower leg injuries were treated by free flap transplantation combined with skin grafting and VSD from January 2008 to June 2011. The size of the wounds ranged from 23×8 cm to 44×28 cm and all affected more 70% of the low leg circumferential area. Wounds were complicated by exposure, necrosis, or infection of deep tissues. The wounds were first debrided and covered by VSD. When the condition of the wound had improved (5 to 7 days later), free flaps were harvested to reconstruct damaged tissue and skin grafts and VSD was used to cover granulation tissues around the transplanted flap.
Results: Granulation tissues developed and the area requiring flap cover decreased in all 30 patients after debridement and VSD. In 28 of 30 cases, the transplanted flaps grew well without complication. Peripheral necrosis was observed in only 2 cases, which required a second debridement and skin graft. Ten wound areas covered by grafts were left with scattered peripheral wounds, which healed with the help of 1 more skin graft or dressing change. Morphological appearance and functional recovery were satisfactory in all 30 cases.
Conclusions: Initial debridement and the temporary VSD cover followed after several days by free flap transplantation combined with skin grafting and VSD protection is a reliable treatment regimen for traumatic large circumferential or sub-circumferential soft tissue wounds of the lower leg with deep tissue exposure.

Keywords: Negative-Pressure Wound Therapy - methods, Leg Injuries - surgery, Leg - surgery, Free Tissue Flaps - transplantation, Adult, Adolescent, Skin Transplantation, Soft Tissue Injuries - surgery, Wound Healing, young adult



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