Worldwide, many scar contracture release surgeries are performed to improve range of motion (ROM) after a burn injury. There is a particular need in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) for such procedures. However, well-designed longitudinal studies on this topic are lacking globally. The present study therefore aimed to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of contracture release surgery performed in an LMIC.
Methods: This pre-/postintervention study was conducted in a rural regional referral hospital in Tanzania. All patients undergoing contracture release surgery during surgical missions were eligible. ROM data were indexed to normal values to compare various joints. Surgery was considered effective if the ROM of all planes of motion of a single joint increased at least 25% postoperatively or if the ROM reached 100% of normal ROM. Follow-ups were at discharge and at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months postoperatively.
Results: A total of 70 joints of 44 patients were included. Follow-up rate at 12 months was 86%. Contracture release surgery was effective in 79% of the joints (P < 0.001) and resulted in a mean ROM improvement from 32% to 90% of the normal value (P < 0.001). A predictive factor for a quicker rehabilitation was lower age (R 2 = 11%, P = 0.001). Complication rate was 52%, consisting of mostly minor complications.
Conclusions: This is the first study to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of contracture release surgery in an LMIC. The follow-up rate was high and showed that contracture release surgery is safe, effective, and sustainable. We call for the implementation of outcome research in future surgical missions.