Pellegrini, Vincent D. Jr., Jaffe, David E., Stains, Joseph P., Hanna, E. Lex, Nguyen, Thao P., Holmes, Robert, Chiaramonti, Alexander M., Robertson, Astor D., Barfield, William R., Fourney, William L.
Background: Adequate irrigation of open musculoskeletal injuries is considered the standard of care to decrease bacterial load and other contaminants. While the benefit of debris removal compared with the risk of further seeding by high-pressure lavage has been studied, the effects of irrigation on muscle have been infrequently reported. Our aim in the present study was to assess relative damage to muscle by pulsatile lavage compared with bulb-syringe irrigation.
Methods: In an animal model of heterotopic ossification, 24 Sprague-Dawley rats underwent hindlimb blast amputation via detonation of a submerged explosive, with subsequent through-the-knee surgical amputation proximal to the zone of injury. All wounds were irrigated and underwent primary closure. In 12 of the animals, pulsatile lavage (20 psi [138 kPa]) was used as the irrigation method, and in the other 12 animals, bulb-syringe irrigation was performed. A third group of 6 rats did not undergo the blast procedure but instead underwent surgical incision into the left thigh muscle followed by pulsatile lavage. Serial radiographs of the animals were made to monitor the formation of soft-tissue radiopaque lesions until euthanasia at 6 months. Image-guided muscle biopsies were performed at 8 weeks and 6 months (at euthanasia) on representative animals from each group. Histological analysis was performed with hematoxylin and eosin, alizarin red, and von Kossa staining on interval biopsy and postmortem specimens.
Results: All animals managed with pulsatile lavage, with or without blast injury, developed soft-tissue radiopaque lesions, whereas no animal that had bulb-syringe irrigation developed these lesions (p = 0.001). Five of the 12 animals that underwent blast amputation with pulsatile lavage experienced wound complications, whereas no animal in the other 2 groups experienced wound complications (p = 0.014). Radiopaque lesions appeared approximately 10 days postoperatively, increased in density until approximately 16 weeks, then demonstrated signs of variable regression. Histological analysis of interval biopsy and postmortem specimens demonstrated tissue damage with inflammatory cells, cell death, and dystrophic calcification.
Conclusions: Pulsatile lavage of musculoskeletal wounds can cause irreversible insult to tissue, resulting in myonecrosis and dystrophic calcification.
Clinical Relevance: The benefits and offsetting harm of pulsatile lavage (20 psi) should be considered before its routine use in the management of musculoskeletal wounds.