Acute Limb Shortening for Major Near and Complete Upper Extremity Amputations with Associated Neurovascular Injury: A Review of the Literature

Nicholas Kusnezov, John C. Dunn, Jeremy Stewart*, Justin S. Mitchell, Miguel Pirela-Cruz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In the setting a near or complete upper extremity amputations with significant soft tissue loss and neurovascular compromise, upper extremity surgeons are faced with the challenge of limb salvage. There are a multitude of treatment options for managing skeletal and soft tissue injuries including provisional fixation, staged reconstruction, and an acute shortening osteotomy with primary rigid internal fixation. However, many complications are associated with these techniques. Complications of provisional fixation include pin tract infection and loosening, tethering of musculotendinous units, nonunion, and additional surgeries. Staged reconstruction includes a variety of techniques: distraction osteogenesis, bone transport, or vascularized and non-vascularized structural autograft or allograft, but the risks often outweigh the benefits. Risks include nonunion, postoperative vascular complications necessitating reoperation, and the inability to return to the previous level of function at an average of 24 months. Acute shortening osteotomy with internal fixation offers the advantage of a single-stage procedure that provides for decreasing the soft tissue loss, provides a rigid platform to protect the delicate neurovascular repair, and alleviates unwanted tension at the repair sites. This review discusses the literature on the surgical treatment of severe upper extremity trauma with associated neurovascular injury over the past 75 years, and aims to evaluate the indications, surgical techniques, clinical and functional outcomes, and complications associated with acute shortening osteotomy with rigid internal fixation. Although this technique is not without risks, it is well-tolerated in the acute setting with a complication profile comparable to other techniques of fixation while remaining a single procedure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-316
Number of pages11
JournalOrthopaedic Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Amputations
  • Limb shortening
  • Neurovascular injury
  • Shortening osteotomy
  • Upper extremity


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