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Open tibial shaft fractures: I. Evaluation and initial wound management.

Open fractures of the tibial diaphysis are often associated with severe bone and soft-tissue injury. Contamination of the fracture site and devitalization of the soft-tissue envelope greatly increase the risk of infection, nonunion, and wound complications. Management of open tibial shaft fractures begins with a thorough patient evaluation, including assessment of the bone and soft tissue surrounding the tibial injury. Classification of these injuries according to the system of Gustilo and Anderson at the time of surgical débridement is useful in guiding treatment and predicting outcomes. Administration of antibiotic prophylaxis as soon as possible after injury as well as urgent and thorough débridement, irrigation, and bony stabilization are done to minimize the risk of infection and improve outcomes. The use of antibiotic bead pouches and negative-pressure wound therapy has proved to be efficacious for the acute, temporary management of severe bone and soft-tissue defects.

Open tibial shaft fractures: II. Definitive management and limb salvage.

Definitive treatment of open fractures of the tibial diaphysis is challenging. The high-energy nature of these fractures, as well as the contamination of the fracture site and devitalization of the soft-tissue envelope, greatly increases the risk of infection, nonunion, and wound complications. The goals of definitive treatment include wound coverage or closure; prevention of infection; restoration of length, alignment, rotation, and stability; fracture healing; and return of function. Advances in orthobiologics, modern plastic surgical techniques, and fracture stabilization methods, most notably locked intramedullary nailing, have led to improved prognosis for functional recovery and limb salvage. Despite improved union and limb salvage rates, the prognosis for severe type III open fracture of the tibial shaft remains guarded, and outcomes are often determined by patient psychosocial variables.

HOT TOPIC: Update on the Management of Open Fractures

Treatment of a bone fracture is the most common orthopaedic operation, and frequently these surgeries involve open fractures. An open fracture is a fracture that communicates with an overlying break in the skin. This communication between bone and the external environment adds an additional level of complexity to the treatment algorithm. The principles of treatment of open fractures include early administration of systemic antibiotics, surgical débridement, and fracture stabilization. Recent evidence has questioned some of these traditional treatment principles, and suggests that not all compound fractures require surgery or antibiotics, and that treatment can be immediate or staged. This article provides an overview on the management of open fractures, with special emphasis on new techniques of treatment.