The objective of this study was to identify risk factors for the development of complications and unsatisfactory skin closure following fasciotomy for trauma. Risk factors included in the study are prolonged time from injury to fasciotomy, type of fasciotomy, site of injury, and kind of underlying injury. The study was a retrospective analysis of 100 consecutive fasciotomies done for trauma over a period of 38 months (December 1991 to January 1995) in a 'level I' trauma center at a university-affiliated county teaching hospital. Ninety-four patients were eligible for analysis, 29 of whom (31%) developed complications at the fasciotomy site. The risk was increased for lower extremity versus upper extremity (34.3% versus 20.8%), prophylactic versus therapeutic (42.0% versus 24.6%), late (>8 hours) versus early (37% versus 25%), and vascular versus musculoskeletal (38.8% versus 22.2%) trauma cases. The same risk factors negatively influenced the ability to close the skin primarily. The four subgroups defined by vascular/nonvascular injury and upper/lower extremity site had significantly different nonclosure rates (p = 0.043). The rate was highest among the vascular/lower extremity group (60.5%) and lowest among the nonvascular/upper extremity group (15.4%). We concluded that fasciotomies in lower extremities, the presence of underlying vascular injuries, fasciotomies performed prophylactically, and a time between the injury and fasciotomy of more than 8 hours are associated with an increased risk for local complications. The same factors are associated with an increased need for skin grafting the wound.
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