Journal of Burn Care & Research
Volume 30, Number 2 Weinand 363
the devices wide range of clinical applications, includ- debridement of the wounds, leading to direct opera-
ing treatment of infected surgical wounds, traumatic tion for tendon coverage.
wounds, pressure ulcers, wounds with exposed bone A vertical inferior-epigastric flap was created pedi-
and hardware, diabetic foot ulcers, and venous stasis cled to the left superficial inferior-epigastric artery,
ulcers.15–19 There are also case reports of the use of identified by Doppler ultrasound. The flap was laid
the device in salvaging venous congested free-flaps.20 onto the wound, secured with 4/0 Nylon stitches to
So far it has not been reported in use to decrease the index and little finger radially and ulnar, respec-
attachment time of pedicled flaps in hand burns. We tively. Then a wound VAC with silvercoated sponge
present the case of using the VAC system to hasten was carved into the shape of the palm and fingers and
the attachment of a superficial inferior-epigastric ar- applied beneath the hand onto the abdomen (Figure
tery flap to the fingers in a 33-year-old female patient. 2). It was hold in place by skin staples. Another
sponge was cut to shape of the dorsum accordingly
and placed onto the flap, secured by scarce use of skin
staples. Then the polyurethane was cut in quarters,
A 33-year-old woman presented to the emergency thus a complete seal was achieved including the wrist
room after having sustained a complete thickness of the patient. On the fourth postoperative day the
burn to the dorsum of her left hand and fingers using patient was taken back to the operating room for flap
a steam press during work. For surgical history so far maturation and delayed inset. The VAC was taken
two C-sections had been performed. The patient did off; attachment of the flap to the finger wounds dor-
not report any current medical problems, did not take sally was observed to about 80% (Figure 3). Especially
any medication, and reported no allergies. She did an attachment to the dorsum of the middle and ring
not smoke and denied alcohol or illicit drug intake. finger were observed, were no suture had been
Physical examination showed the heart in sinus placed. A delayed inset was performed and the VAC
rhythm, the patient being mild hypertensive due to system applied again. Furthermore, staged matura-
pain. tion of the flap and delayed insets were performed
Her left hand showed significant burn injuries of sec- two times, early functional physiotherapy was done,
ond and third degree on the entire dorsum of the hand, starting on postoperative day 2 after the second-
extending from the second to fifth finger. The dorsal staged flap maturation and delayed inset. Each time
joint lines of distal interphalangeal joint and proximal after operation, the vacuum glove was applied again.
interphalangeal joint were crossed by the thermal in- The patient was released after 2 weeks in a compres-
jury, the patient was not able to complete closure of sion glove of the grafted hand.
the fist (Figure 1). The extension of wrist and fingers
showed also a lack overall of 10 degrees. The patient
reported numbness over the burned area as well in all
injured fingers. Tendons were exposed after initial Third- and fourth-degree burns in hand injuries de-
mand early treatment to cover exposed tendons and
salvage movement; defects are mandatory covered by
Figure 1. Second- and third-degree burn injury to the
dorsum of the hand, involving extensively the dorsal fin- Figure 2. Second application of the carved VAC, the flap is
gers. filleted for the fingers.
Journal of Burn Care & Research
364 Weinand March/April 2009
bed that can lead to a lower rate of graft take. The flap
coverage described ranges from local forearm flaps,
regional island flaps, including posterior interossefor-
earm island,4,26 radial forearm Chinese flap27 to dis-
tant flaps such as preformed groin flaps5,6,17,28 or
even free flaps.29 Compared with skin grafting, flaps
have a smaller rate of contracture relapse and partial
failure. Groin-based flaps usually provide a sufficient
tissue coverage with fat, but because of their nature of
origin have to be debulked for esthetic appearance. As
tendons were exposed and abundant tissue from the
groin was available, we decided on an ileo-epigastic
artery based flap. The flap provided ample coverage of
Figure 3. The flap shows about 80% of attachment to the the tissue defect on the dorsum of the hand; however,
dorsum of the injured fingers after VAC treatment. some debulking had to be planned.
The attachment of the flap tissue to the burn
wounds takes in general 2 to 3 weeks. Establishment
tissue transfer.2,5,6 Dorsal contractures are the most of blood supply may play a role for this time frame.6
common complications of the burned hand and need The VAC device is used to support granulation tissue
to be avoided. The dorsum of the hand has thin and formation after flap harvest, formation of granulation
mobile nonglabellar skin, allowing individual joint tissue in degloving injuries, or support attachment of
motion. This thin dorsal skin and scant subcutaneous split thickness skin grafts or temporary skin replace-
tissue offers little protection to the deeper structures. ments.15,16,30,31 We used the VAC system as a glove
Consequently, burns of the dorsum are often deep, to apply negative atmospheric pressure onto the pedi-
resulting in a spectrum of deformities.21 Dorsal hand cled ileo-epigastric flap as has been described similar
burn wounds remain, even with intense medical in- for degloving injuries31 or to decrease venous stasis
tervention, one of the most challenging injuries.22 edema in a flap.20 It is possible that the observed
After arrival and examination, our patient was taken effect of hastened attachment is due to the VAC sys-
immediately to the operating room for eschar de- tem described effects such as of recruiting granulation
bridement. The decision was made as early surgical tissue, vascularization, and possible stem cells from
therapy helps avoiding revisions and improves re- the underlying dermis.15,30,32 In our case, we ob-
sults.23,24 Here, exposure of tendons resulted from served a hastened attachment of flap tissue to the
the depth of the thermal injury. wounds within 4 days by using the wound VAC sys-
As for the type of coverage several options exist. tem early on. This tissue attachment was at the fin-
Any type of skin graft has its limitations and disadvan- gers, in particular at the middle and ring finger, were
tages. If thin split skin graft is used, the risk of joint no sutures had been placed.
contracture is considerable25 and also color mis- Although the effect of improved wound granula-
matching could be disappointing. The alternative tion and attachment of split thickness skin grafts are
thick split thickness graft usually yields reasonable not completely uncovered, the effects have been well
results, provided the graft takes without complica- described.16 –19,30 –33 Increased release of growth fac-
tion. However, the resulting donor site morbidity tors has been described, leading to improved vascu-
and partial graft loss are among the reported prob- larization, and thereby formation of new tissue.32
lems, leaving the patient with resulting larger defects. Further studies are necessary to evaluate the effects of
Compared with split thickness skin graft, full-thickness the VAC system to pedicled flaps.
skin graft is usually associated with better functional
and esthetic outcomes. Nevertheless, in large burn
wound areas of the dorsum of the hand, partial failure
Generally, graft dyspigmentation, contractures, 1. Kunzi W, Zellweger G. Therapeutic possibilities in hand
burns. Helv Chir Acta 1989;56:139 – 41.
donor, and/or recipient’s site morbidity are among 2. Zellner PR, Bugyi S. The burned hand. Handchir Mikrochir
postoperative complications of the three variations of Plast Chir 1984;16:170 – 82.
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burned hand: early surgical treatment (1975– 85) vs. conser-
event of exposure of joints and tendons and also when vative treatment (1964 –74). A comparative study. Burns Incl
there are questions about the quality of the wound Therm Inj 1987;13:45– 8.
Journal of Burn Care & Research
Volume 30, Number 2 Weinand 365
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