Soft tissue coverage of the ankle: An algorithm for appropriate flap selection and the experiences of a newly established Major Trauma Network.

Soft tissue coverage of the ankle: An algorithm for appropriate flap selection and the experiences of a newly established Major Trauma Network.

Publication date: Oct 01, 2023

Replication of the thin and pliable native skin around the ankle remains a challenge for plastic surgeons treating soft tissue defects in this region. Flap reconstruction constitutes the mainstay of management of such injuries. Subsequent management often entails revisional debulking surgery to permit normal footwear and an acceptable aesthetic outcome. In light of limited elective operating capacity throughout the covid-19 pandemic, we adopted an algorithm to inform reconstruction in such injuries and limit the need for revisional surgeries. This study presents this algorithm, which considers patient age, functional status, co-morbidities, body habitus and defect location. Retrospective analysis of a prospectively maintained database of all patients undergoing lower limb soft tissue reconstruction over 21 months was performed. All flap-based reconstructions of ankle defects were included; direct closures and skin grafts were excluded. All trauma patients were managed via a combined orthoplastic approach as per BOA-BAPRAS standards. All patients had Computed Tomography Angiography prior to their definitive reconstruction. Lower Extremity Functional Scale (LEFS) scores were analysed for patients with over 12 months of postoperative follow up, where available. 71 flaps were performed in 69 patients. Open ankle fracture was the most common cause (86%); other indications included osteomyelitis and surgical wound dehiscence. Mean age was 50 (13-87 years) with a higher proportion of males to females (ratio 1. 25:1). There were 26 pedicled flaps (18 Medial Plantar Artery and 8 Peroneus Brevis) and 45 free flaps (22 Anterolateral thigh, 11 Superficial Circumflex Iliac Artery Perforator, 11 Gracilis and 1 Medial Sural Artery Perforator). Mean follow-up is 13. 6 months. There were three flap failures, and four patients subsequently underwent delayed below knee amputation despite successful soft tissue healing. For the patients with a minimum of 12 months follow up, LEFS scores with an average of 51% were achieved (range 15-88%). Four patients have been listed for revisional/debulking surgery. Although soft tissue defects around the ankle can be difficult to manage, with careful planning and addressing each patient individually, supported by an algorithmic approach, good functional and aesthetic outcomes can be achieved with low rates of secondary revision surgery.

Concepts Keywords
Algorithmic Compound fracture
Ankle Limb reconstruction
Pandemic Microsurgery
Surgery Open ankle
Open fracture


Type Source Name
disease IDO algorithm
disease IDO replication
disease MESH defects
disease MESH covid-19 pandemic
disease MESH functional status
disease MESH morbidities
disease MESH osteomyelitis
disease MESH surgical wound dehiscence

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