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Short duration of antibiotic prophylaxis in open fractures does not enhance risk of subsequent infection

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We undertook a retrospective case-control study to assess the clinical variables associated with infections in open fractures. A total of 1492 open fractures were retrieved; these were Gustilo and Anderson grade I in 663 (44.4%), grade II in 370 (24.8%), grade III in 310 (20.8%) and unclassifiable in 149 (10.0%). The median duration of prophylaxis was three days (interquartile range (IQR) 1 to 3), and the median number of surgical interventions was two (1 to 9). We identified 54 infections (3.6%) occurring at a median of ten days (IQR 5 to 20) after trauma. Pathogens intrinsically resistant to the empirical antibiotic regimen used (enterococci, Enterobacter spp, Pseudomonas spp) were documented in 35 of 49 cases (71%). In multivariable regression analyses, grade III fractures and vascular injury or compartment syndrome were significantly associated with infection. Overall, compared with one day of antibiotic treatment, two to three days (odds ratio (OR) 0.6 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.2 to 2.0)), four to five days (OR 1.2 (95% CI 0.3 to 4.9)), or > five days (OR 1.4 (95% CI 0.4 to 4.4)) did not show any significant differences in the infection risk. These results were similar when multivariable analysis was performed for grade III fractures only (OR 0.3 (95% CI 0.1 to 3.4); OR 0.6 (95% CI 0.2 to 2.1); and OR 1.7 (95% CI 0.5 to 6.2), respectively).

Infection in open fractures is related to the extent of tissue damage but not to the duration of prophylactic antibiotic therapy. Even for grade III fractures, a one-day course of prophylactic antibiotics might be as effective as prolonged prophylaxis.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2013;95-B:831–7.

Correspondence should be sent to I. Uckay; e-mail:

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