When should patients begin ambulating following lower limb split skin graft surgery? A systematic review

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Pretibial lacerations and lower limb wounds are referred to plastic surgery teams for split skin graft surgery. Traditionally, these patients have been immobilised on bedrest following surgery. More recently, patients have commenced ambulation earlier to avoid medical complications and facilitate discharge. The objective of this literature review was to determine when such patients should begin walking. A literature search was undertaken using the electronic databases AMED, Cinahl, Embase, Medline (via Ovid), PEDro and Pubmed. Clinical trials using human subjects, written in English, were included. Seventeen (of 1137) papers met the inclusion criteria and were reviewed. The literature suggested that patients should begin walking immediately or at the earliest possible opportunity after lower limb skin graft surgery. Although the literature advocated early ambulation, the evidence base presented with a number of recurrent methodological limitations, including small sample sizes, lack of a control sample, and limited follow-up. Accordingly, further research employing large, well-designed, randomised controlled trials is recommended. It will then be possible to understand with greater certainty when patients should begin walking after lower extremity split skin graft surgery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-145
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006

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