To analyze the differences in outcomes between primary and secondary definitive osteosynthesis for fractures of the lower leg with concomitant acute compartment syndrome (ACS).
From our trauma database, we identified a total of 107 patients with 126 fractures of AO/OTA type 41–44 and 120 ACS from January 01, 2001 to December 31, 2015 who were treated with primary or secondary definitive osteosynthesis after concomitant fasciotomy.
Seventy-one patients with 77 fractures of AO/OTA classification type 41–44 suffering ACS received primary definitive osteosynthesis at the time of compartmental incision (POCI) and were compared to 36 patients with 49 fractures of AO/OTA type 41–44 and ACS, who received secondary definitive osteosynthesis after compartmental incision and soft tissue coverage (SOCI). Patients with POCI had a significantly shorter length of hospital stay with significantly fewer necessary surgeries to achieve definitive fracture treatment and soft tissue closure than SOCI patients (p ≤ 0.001). The overall rate of infections in both groups was 13%, without any difference between POCI and SOCI.
POCI for AO/OTA fractures type 41–44 with ACS is a safe and effective procedure without increasing the infection rate compared to a gradual treatment (SOCI). However, the possible selection bias due to the retrospective study design needs to be considered.