BACKGROUND: The early appropriate care (EAC) protocol and clinical grading system (CGS) propose criteria that suggest timing of definitive fracture fixation by assessing risk for complications. This study applies these criteria to a cohort of patients with orthopedic injuries and determines clinical outcomes for groups stratified by risk and timing of fracture fixation. METHODS: This retrospective work was performed at a Level I trauma center. Patients with operative femur, pelvis, acetabulum, and/or thoracolumbar spine injuries were included. Fractures were treated surgically, either early or delayed. Patients were retrospectively categorized into low- or high-risk groups using the EAC protocol and described as stable, borderline, unstable, or in extremis using a modified CGS (mCGS). RESULTS: In the EAC analysis, low-risk patients treated early had fewer complications compared with delayed treatment. Among high-risk patients, no significant difference was noted. With the use of the mCGS, stable patients treated early had fewer complications compared with delayed patients. No difference in complications was detected for unstable and in extremis patients. Borderline patients treated early had fewer complications compared with delayed treatment, although results were not supported by sensitivity analysis. CONCLUSION: The EAC protocol can effectively distinguish patients who are at high risk for complications if treated early. Early treatment in the low-risk group was associated with fewer complications. The mCGS differentiates stable patients who benefit from early definitive treatment of fractures as well as severely injured patients (unstable or in extremis) who may benefit from damage-control orthopedics. Borderline patients may also benefit from early definitive treatment, but criteria defining borderline patients require further study. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Prognostic study, level III.
- Fracture fixation
- Multiple trauma
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine