Open fractures: It doesn't come out in the wash

Lisa L. Schlitzkus, Claudia E. Goettler, Brett H. Waibel, Scott G. Sagraves, Christopher C. Hasty, Melinda Edwards, Michael F. Rotondo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Six hours from injury to washout is considered the gold standard in the treatment of open traumatic fractures. Despite this being our hospital policy, the rural nature of our Level I trauma center causes delays in discovery and transport, creating a unique randomization of time to washout. We hypothesized that orthopedic complications after open fractures are related to the severity of the fractures, not the timing of the washout. Methods: Patients and fractures were reviewed retrospectively over 6.3 years, evaluating for demographics, injury severity, location of fracture, mechanism of injury, Gustilo fracture grade, and time from injury to initial washout. Orthopedic wound complication rates were compared using logistic regression. Results: A total of 1,487 open fractures in 1,278 patients were reviewed. Time from injury to washout was 26 to 4,749 min (mean, 510 min), with 48 patients having no washout. Overall, 8.2% of fractures (n=122) had an orthopedic complication, rates of which increased with severity (Injury Severity Score, Abbreviated Injury Score [AIS], and Gustilo class) and blunt injuries but were not related to time to washout. Penetrating injuries showed no difference in complication rates according to time to washout. Lower extremity fractures had a higher rate of complications than those of the upper extremity (odds ratio 2.2), likely because of differences in fracture grade. By multivariable logistic regression, only fracture grade, Revised Trauma Score (RTS), and male gender were independent predictors of wound complications; penetrating trauma was predictive of low risk. Time to washout was not an independent predictor of wound complications. Conclusions: Although grossly contaminated fractures should not be left unattended, the degree of initial injury, as judged by fracture grade and physiology (RTS), was predictive of orthopedic wound complications, whereas time to washout was not. Hence, there is little benefit of washout in Gustilo grade 1/AIS 1 fractures or penetrating injuries, regardless of grade, and adherence to a specific time to washout is not beneficial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-363
Number of pages5
JournalSurgical Infections
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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