Infectious Complications of Damage Control Orthopedics in War Trauma

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Abstract

Background:

War-trauma, especially due to blast injury, can be associated with long bone fracture. Immediate external fixation of fractures, followed by internal fixation when the patient is medically stabilized (damage control orthopedics [DCO]), is the U.S. Army policy for war-related fractures. Data on infectious outcomes when DCO is used for war-trauma fractures are scant.

Methods:

A retrospective review of U.S. war-trauma patients from 2003 to 2007 with femoral or tibial fractures treated by DCO was conducted. Fisher’s Exact and Mann-Whitney tests were used for comparisons.

Results:

Fifty-eight soldiers were identified. Fifty-five were males with a median age of 26 years (19–54 years) and a median time to internal fixation by intramedually nailing of 9 days (4–414 days). Eighty-eight percent of fractures were open, and 57% were femoral fractures. The median duration of follow-up was 447 days (20–1,340 days). Fracture site infection occurred in 40% (23 of 58), with suspected osteomyelitis in 17% (10 of 58). Of infected nails, fracture union occurred in 70% and nail retention in 57%. Median time to infection after nail placement was 15 days (0–717 days) with 75% of infections occurring by day 113. Multiple bacterial pathogens including Acinetobacter baumannii and Staphylococcus spp. were causative organisms. Blast injuries occurred in 91% of infected versus 47% of uninfected (p = 0.005). There was no difference between infections occurring in femoral (61%) versus tibial (39%) (p = 0.620) location.

Conclusions:

Infection was associated with 40% of DCO-associated intramedullary nails. Blast injury was a predictor of infection. Despite infection, fracture union and nail retention rates were high, suggesting a good outcome.

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