Gustilo IIIC fractures in the lower limb

Our 15-year experience

A. Soni, K. Tzafetta, S. Knight, P. V. Giannoudis


Controversy continues to surround the management of patients with an open fracture of the lower limb and an associated vascular injury (Gustilo type IIIC). This study reports our 15-year experience with these fractures and their outcome in 18 patients (15 male and three female). Their mean age was 30.7 years (8 to 54) and mean Mangled Extremity Severity Score (MESS) at presentation was 6.9 (3 to 10). A total of 15 lower limbs were salvaged and three underwent amputation (two immediate and one delayed). Four patients underwent stabilisation of the fracture by external fixation and 12 with an internal device. A total of 11 patients had damage to multiple arteries and eight had a vein graft. Wound cover was achieved with a pedicled flap in three and a free flap in six. Seven patients developed a wound infection and four developed nonunion requiring further surgery. At a mean follow-up of five years (4.1 to 6.6) the mean visual analogue scale for pain was 64 (10 to 90). Depression and anxiety were common. Activities were limited mainly because of pain, and the MESS was a valid predictor of the functional outcome. Distal tibial fractures had an increased rate of nonunion when associated with posterior tibial artery damage, and seven patients (39%) were not able to return to their previous occupation.


  • No benefits in any form have been received or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

  • Supplementary material. Three tables, detailing i) the complications encountered in the 18 patients, ii) the results of the EuroQol grading, and iii) the results by return-to-work data, are available with the electronic version of this article on our website

  • Received July 10, 2011.
  • Accepted December 8, 2011.
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