Staged method using antibiotic beads and subsequent autografting for large traumatic tibial bone loss: 22 of 23 fractures healed after 5-20 months.
The vascularity of surrounding soft tissues, which is related to muscle cover, is important for the healing of traumatic bone loss. Muscle cover on the distal tibia is limited compared to the diaphyseal and proximal tibia, and delayed healing of fractures in this area is common. We evaluated the healing of traumatic bone loss in the proximal, diaphyseal, and distal tibia. 23 open tibial fractures with substantial bone loss (mean 52 (34-104) mm) were treated using a staged method with antibiotic-impregnated beads and later autologous bone grafting at second-stage surgery on average 8 weeks after the injury. 22 fractures healed after mean 40 (20-79) weeks. The average healing time in the distal tibia (mean 30 weeks) was 7 weeks shorter (95% CI: 12-26 weeks) than in the proximal tibia (37 weeks), and 16 weeks shorter (95% CI: 3-29 weeks) than in the tibial shaft (47 weeks). The length of the bone and the type of soft tissue cover (free muscle or secondary suture) had no effect on healing time. Our study suggests that the method we used is applicable in all parts of the tibia, although the healing of bone loss is slower in the diaphyseal tibia than in the proximal and distal tibia.