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Afr J Med Med Sci. 2000 Sep-Dec;29(3-4):293-6.

Scalp closure without fracture elevation does not reduce the risk of infection in patients with compound depressed skull fractures.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan and University College Hospital, Nigeria.


We conducted this study in order to determine whether suturing the scalp wound prior to referral for definitive surgery reduces the rate of wound infection in patients with compound depressed skull fracture and to propose guidelines for the initial management of the wound. We conducted a retrospective analysis of 79 patients with compound depressed skull fractures treated surgically in our unit between January, 1987 and August, 1998 and compared the rate of infection in patients who presented with open wounds with the rate in patients whose scalps were sutured prior to presentation to us. Adults and children were nearly equally represented in this study group. The male to female ratio was 3.6:1. Majority (49/79) of the fractures resulted from vehicular accidents. A total of 27 wounds were infected giving a rate of infection of 34%. Nine of the infections were present pre-operatively while the remaining 18 occurred post-operatively. Of the 52 patients with open wounds (OW) at presentation, 15 had wound infection. In the remaining 27 patients in whom the scalp had been sutured prior to referral (SW), there were 12 wound infections. There was no significant difference in the proportions of infected wounds between the two groups (X2 = 1.92, P > 0.5). In compound depressed skull fractures, suturing the scalp laceration alone prior to referral for definitive surgery did not reduce the rate of infection of the cranial wound. We recommend haemostasis, thorough irrigation of the scalp wound and application of sterile dressings prior to transfer for definitive management, in patients who do not have immediate access to neurosurgical care. Prospective studies are required to validate these findings.

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