Two-stage surgical treatment for septic non-union of the forearm

Fabrizio Perna, Federico Pilla, Matteo Nanni, Lisa Berti, Giada Lullini, Francesco Traina, Cesare Faldini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


AIM To investigate the effectiveness of a two-stage surgical procedure for the treatment of septic forearm non-union. METHODS Septic non-unions are rare complications of forearm fractures. When they occur, they modify the relationship between forearm bones leading to a severe functional impairment. Treatment is challenging and surgery and antibiotic therapy are required to achieve infection resolution. It is even harder to obtain non-union healing with good functional results. The aim of this study is to present a two stages surgical treatment for septic forearm non-union with revision and temporary stabilization of the non-union until infection has cleared and subsequently perform a new synthesis with plate, opposite bone graft strut and intercalary graft. We retrospectively reviewed 18 patients with a mean age at the time of primary injury of 34.5 years (19-57 years) and a mean follow-up of 6 years (2-10 years). All patients presented an atrophic nonunion with a mean length of the bone defect of 1.8 cm (1.2-4 cm). Complications and clinical results after surgical treatment were recorded. RESULTS Mean time to resolution of the infectious process was 8.2 wk (range 4-20 wk) after the first surgery and specific antibiotic therapy. All the non-union healed with an average time of 5 mo (range 2-10 mo) after the second step surgery. Cultures on intraoperative samples were positive in all cases. No major intraoperative complications occurred. Two patients developed minor complications and one needed a second surgical debridement for infection resolution. At the last follow-up functional results were excellent in 5 (27.8%) patients, satisfactory in 10 (55.5%) and unsatisfactory in 3 (16.7%) patients. No activities of daily living (ADLs) limitations were reported by 12 (66.6%) patients, slight by 3 (16.6%) and severe limitation by 3 (16.6%) patients. Mean visual analog scale at the last follow-up was 1 (0-3). CONCLUSION The two-step technique has proven to be effective to achieve resolution of the infectious process and union with good functional results and low rate of complications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-477
Number of pages7
JournalWorld Journal of Orthopaedics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Bone graft
  • Delayed union
  • External fixation
  • Forearm fractures
  • Infection
  • Non-union
  • Open fracture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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