The purpose of this study was to determine whether different forms of stabilization for open femur fractures can be performed without influencing outcome, in particular infection and delayed unions/nonunions. Although the traditional management of these injuries is external fixation, a trend toward definitive stabilization techniques has evolved in the current literature.
All open fractures of the femur shaft and the distal femur presenting to our urban Level I trauma center during a 10 year period were reviewed. A total of 40 patients (41 fractures) were initially treated at the above institution within 6 h of injury. All patients underwent emergent wound irrigation, debridement, and antibiothic theraphy. The method of fracture immobilization was left to the discretion of the attending trauma surgent. Study population consited of 12 (29 %) GI, 10 (25 %) GII, and 19 (46 %) GIII fractures.
Initially, fracture management was performed with external fixation (EF) 19 (43.2 %), intramedullary nailing (IM) 18 (38.6 %), plating (PL) 3 (6.8 %), screw fixation (SF) 1 (2.3 %) and without treatment 4 (9.1 %). In all, 3 (6.8 %) fractures were complicated by infection, 7 (15.9 %) had implant failure, and 5 (11.4 %) developed delayed union.
Using external fixation in acute fracture treatment for open femur fractures is a safe and effective surgical technique. Based on our results, external fixation might be superior to intramedullary nailing or plating when evaluating outcome parameters and complications.