The free fibula flap has been used to treat ten patients with important long bone defects (mean length 14 cm) following severe trauma. Defects in all the long bones of the limbs have been treated by this technique. Five free osseous and five osteocutaneous flaps were performed. Primary skeletal union occurred at 17 bone junctions (85 per cent) within 5 months. No secondary grafting procedures were required. The mean delay in referral was 17 months and eight patients had already undergone three or more unsuccessful surgical procedures to promote union. The versatility of the vascularized free fibula flap is presented as a one-stage reconstruction for large bony and soft tissue defects, stressing the importance of prompt referral and recognition of cases. A combined orthopaedic and plastic surgical approach to these patients is advisable from the onset.