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J Trauma. 1999 Jun;46(6):1049-54.

Aggressive treatment of 119 open fracture wounds.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, USA.



The purpose of this study was to determine whether immediate primary closure of open fracture wounds can be performed without increasing the incidence of infections and delayed unions/nonunions. Although the traditional management of these injuries has been open treatment, a trend toward immediate primary closure has evolved on our service.


All open fractures presenting to an urban Level I trauma center during a 42-month period were reviewed. Of the 127 patients with open fractures, 90 patients (119 open fractures) were initially treated at the above institution within 24 hours of injury, had fractures proximal to the carpus or tarsals, and were followed-up until fracture union. All patients underwent emergent wound irrigation and debridement. The method of fracture immobilization and timing of wound closure was left to the discretion of the attending orthopedic surgeon. Immediate primary closure was used in 22 of 25 Grade I open fractures (88%), 37 of 43 Grade II fractures (86%), 24 of 32 Grade IIIa fractures (75%), 4 of 12 Grade IIIb fractures (33%), and 0 of 7 Grade IIIc fractures (0%).


Eight fractures (7%) were complicated by a deep wound infection/osteomyelitis, and 19 fractures (16%) developed a delayed union/nonunion. Statistical analysis revealed no significant difference in delayed/nonunion and infection rates between immediate and delayed closures.


Immediate primary closure of open fracture wounds after a thorough debridement by an experienced fracture surgeon appears to cause no significant increase in infections or delayed union/nonunions. In addition, early closure may decrease the requirement for subsequent debridements and soft-tissue procedures, thereby minimizing surgical morbidity, shortening hospital stays, and reducing costs. We feel that a randomized, prospective study of this aggressive approach to open fracture care is warranted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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