Early treatment remains the best way to prevent infection in open fractures
The importance of immediate antibiotic therapy vs. timing of surgical debridement is controversial.
Early wound debridement and antibiotic administration are both important steps surgeons can take to prevent infections in patients with open fractures, according to
“Immediate antibiotics are important,” Schmidt,
The open nature of these fractures invites infection, Schmidt said, but loss of fracture-site hematoma and bone loss also contribute to healing problems. Infection rates for these cases range from 5% to 40%, and nonunions may result from bone loss.
New approaches needed
Current antibiotic treatment regimens for open fractures do not meet current standards of evidence-based practice. Schmidt highlighted work from the Surgical Infection Society and
However, he said that knowledge of the microbiology and the pathophysiology of surgical site infections has grown tremendously in the last decade, suggesting that new approaches are necessary. “These virulent strains of Staphylococcus aureus and other organisms have specific receptors for proteins that are found on the surfaces of bone and cartilage,” he said. “We need to prevent these bacteria from having access to the soft tissue. You can do that by using antibiotics and performing your debridement.”
In a Lower Extremity Assessment Project study, Pollack and colleagues showed that antibiotics may be more important for infection prevention than time to surgery. The researchers studied time to debridement and infection in 315 patients with open fractures at eight level-1 trauma centers. The study revealed that time to surgery was not a significant factor for infection.
“But, they did find that time to from injury to admission at the definitive treating institution did matter, and they suspect that that was a surrogate description of how quickly the patients were given antibiotics,” Schmidt said.
The surgeon should debride the wound “at the earliest possible opportunity and involve both an experienced orthopedic surgeon and plastic surgeon,” he said. Type 1 and 2 open wounds can usually be closed immediately. Type 3 open fractures may require more than one debridement, but should still be closed or covered within a few days. Grossly contaminated fractures that occurred in stagnant water or on farms remain the most problematic.
“Early soft tissue coverage remains the tenet of treatment for these injuries,” Schmidt said. – by Renee Blisard Buddle
Pollak AN. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2010;doi:10.2106/JBJS.H.00984.
Schmidt AH. Open fractures – Timing and debridement: What’s new. Presented at: Orthopedics Today Hawaii; Jan. 13-16, 2013; Kohala Coast, Hawaii.
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Disclosure: Schmidt is on the Board of Directors of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, receives royalties from Thieme Inc.; is a consultant for Medtronic Inc.; is a contracted researcher for the Department of Defense and Twin Star Medical Inc.; and owns interest in Conventus Orthopaedics, Anthem VAN, International Spine & Orthopaedic Institute and Twin Star Medical.