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Foot Ankle Spec. 2016 Feb;9(1):43-7. doi: 10.1177/1938640015598839. Epub 2015 Aug 5.

Use of a Continuous External Tissue Expander in Total Ankle Arthroplasty: A Novel Augment to Wound Closure.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina


Despite major improvements in surgical technique and implant designs in total ankle arthroplasty (TAA), wound healing complications are still commonly encountered. Not only do these problems delay postoperative recovery and threaten functional outcomes, they also carry an increased risk of progression to deep wound infection, which can jeopardize ultimate retention of the implant. In an effort to reduce the high frequency of wound-related complications after TAA, we have incorporated the use of continuous external tissue expansion (CETE) to augment our closures of the anterior ankle incision. CETE is an innovative technique that is currently being used to aid in the rapid closure of acute and chronic full thickness soft tissue defects, including fasciotomy wounds, high grade open fractures, and chronic foot ulcers. By exploiting the viscoelastic properties of the skin, this technique not only facilitates wound edge approximation of full thickness defects, it also helps take tension off tenuous incisions, thus allowing them to heal and reducing the chance for wound dehiscence. This is the first description of the use of an external tissue expander for the prevention of wound healing complications in the setting of TAA. Since introducing CETE to the closure of our TAA incisions, we have seen a decrease in the number of postoperative wound complications and time to wound healing. Based on our experience, we believe that the use of CETE for the prophylactic management of tenuous surgical incisions, specifically those used in the anterior approach to the ankle during TAA, is both safe and efficacious.


Level V: Technique tip.


ankle arthroplasty; anterior ankle approach; external tissue expansion; postoperative wound complication; surgical dehiscence

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