Purpose: This systematic review determined the reported treatment strategies, their individual success rates, and other outcome parameters in the management of critical-sized bone defects in fracture-related infection (FRI) patients between 1990 and 2018. Methods: A systematic literature search on treatment and outcome of critical-sized bone defects in FRI was performed. Treatment strategies identified were, autologous cancellous grafts, autologous cancellous grafts combined with local antibiotics, the induced membrane technique, vascularized grafts, Ilizarov bone transport, and bone transport combined with local antibiotics. Outcomes were bone healing and infection eradication after primary surgical protocol and recurrence of FRI and amputations at the end of study period. Results: Fifty studies were included, describing 1530 patients, the tibia was affected in 82%. Mean age was 40 years (range 6–80), with predominantly male subjects (79%). Mean duration of infection was 17 months (range 1–624) and mean follow-up 51 months (range 6–126). After initial protocolized treatment, FRI was cured in 83% (95% CI 79–87) of all cases, increasing to 94% (95% CI 92–96) at the end of each individual study. Recurrence of infection was seen in 8% (95% CI 6–11) and amputation in 3% (95% CI 2–3). Final outcomes overlapped across treatment strategies. Conclusion: Results should be interpreted with caution due to the retrospective and observational design of most studies, the lack of clear classification systems, incomplete data reports, potential underreporting of adverse outcomes, and heterogeneity in patient series. A consensus on classification, treatment protocols, and outcome is needed to improve reliability of future studies.
Bibliographical noteThe authors thank Mr. Wichor M. Bramer, biomedical information specialist (Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands), for his help in conducting the systematic literature search.
© 2020, The Author(s).