Postoperative management of lower limb split-thickness skin grafts in Australia

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Lisa Ellis
Patricia Terrill
George Miller
Kin Seng Tong
Miguel Cabalag


negative-pressure wound therapy, skin transplantation, surveys and questionnaires, lower extremity, early ambulation


Background: Evidence for postoperative management of split-thickness skin grafts (SSGs) to lower leg wounds has shown early mobilisation has no adverse effects on graft take, while improving patient outcomes and significantly reducing hospitalisation costs. The development of negative-pressure wound therapy (NPWT) for SSGs led to new options for bolster dressings. This study aimed to determine the current postoperative mobilisation and dressing choices of Australian plastic surgeons.

Methods: Australian plastic surgeons were invited electronically to participate in a questionnaire regarding their postoperative regimens for lower limb SSG in 2013, and again in 2018. A literature review was performed to establish whether surgeon-reported practice was in line with current evidence for early mobilisation of lower limb SSGs and also for NPWT on SSGs.

Results: In 2013, 119 responses were received and in 2018, 110 responses were received. Survey responses showed significant reductions in the numbers of patients kept immobilised for more than five days (30% to 9%, p = 0.001) between 2013 and 2018. Surgeons reported immobilising their patients longer with standard dressings than with NPWT dressings (p = 0.003 by multinomial logistic regression). More than two-thirds of surgeons reported NPWT use in both 2013 (66%) and 2018 (70%).

Conclusion: Between 2013 and 2018, NPWT use increased slightly and the percentage of surgeons mobilising their patients early significantly increased, in accordance with evidence in the literature. A link was noted between NPWT use and an increased tendency to early mobilisation. However, a large proportion of surgeons continued to prescribe bed rest postoperatively.


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