We present a retrospective review of 108 patients with spinal cord injury who underwent reconstruction of grade IV pressure ulcers between 1989 and 1994. Complications of reconstruction secondary to undetected osteomyelitis, namely, deep abscess and sinus tract formation, and their effect on hospital course after the flap reconstruction were quantitatively evaluated. Specifically, this study assesses whether the use of Jamshidi core needle bone biopsy allows for the accurate diagnosis, and therefore treatment, of osteomyelitis before pressure ulcer closure. Early diagnosis and treatment of osteomyelitis would presumably reduce the complication rate of reconstruction. The 108 patients in the study all underwent intraoperative Jamshidi core needle bone biopsy, and postoperative complications were evaluated by reviewers blinded to results of the biopsies. Of the 25 (23 percent) postoperative complications noted, 14 (13 percent) were attributed to underlying osteomyelitis. Patients with pressure ulcer complicated by osteomyelitis were hospitalized significantly longer than those with no osteomyelitis. On average, the former group stayed for 57 days and the latter 21 days (p < 0.001). All 14 patients who developed complications because of deep abscess and sinus tract formation had intraoperative Jamshidi core needle bone biopsy abnormality consistent with osteomyelitis (positive Jamshidi core needle bone biopsy results). The Jamshidi core needle bone biopsy compares favorably with other published modalities used to diagnose osteomyelitis, including white blood cell count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, radiologic study, and bone biopsy culture. We propose an algorithm for the management of spinal cord injury patients with grade IV pressure ulcers. This algorithm incorporates the use of preoperative Jamshidi core needle bone biopsy to allow for the diagnosis and treatment of osteomyelitis before the flap reconstruction and to prevent complications of undiagnosed osteomyelitis after reconstruction.
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