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Immediate versus delayed intramedullary nailing for open fractures of the tibial shaft: a multivariate analysis of factors affecting deep infection and fracture healing.

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to evaluate contributing factors affecting deep infection and fracture healing of open tibia fractures treated with locked intramedullary nailing (IMN) by multivariate analysis.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We examined 99 open tibial fractures (98 patients) treated with immediate or delayed locked IMN in static fashion from 1991 to 2002. Multivariate analyses following univariate analyses were derived to determine predictors of deep infection, nonunion, and healing time to union. The following predictive variables of deep infection were selected for analysis: age, sex, Gustilo type, fracture grade by AO type, fracture location, timing or method of IMN, reamed or unreamed nailing, debridement time (< or =6 h or >6 h), method of soft-tissue management, skin closure time (< or =1 week or >1 week), existence of polytrauma (ISS< 18 or ISS> or =18), existence of floating knee injury, and existence of superficial/pin site infection. The predictive variables of nonunion selected for analysis was the same as those for deep infection, with the addition of deep infection for exchange of pin site infection. The predictive variables of union time selected for analysis was the same as those for nonunion, excluding of location, debridement time, and existence of floating knee and superficial infection.

RESULTS: Six (6.1%; type II Gustilo n=1, type IIIB Gustilo n=5) of the 99 open tibial fractures developed deep infections. Multivariate analysis revealed that timing or method of IMN, debridement time, method of soft-tissue management, and existence of superficial or pin site infection significantly correlated with the occurrence of deep infection (P< 0.0001). In the immediate nailing group alone, the deep infection rate in type IIIB + IIIC was significantly higher than those in type I + II and IIIA (P = 0.016). Nonunion occurred in 17 fractures (20.3%, 17/84). Multivariate analysis revealed that Gustilo type, skin closure time, and existence of deep infection significantly correlated with occurrence of nonunion (P < 0.05). Gustilo type and existence of deep infection were significantly correlated with healing time to union on multivariate analysis (r(2) = 0.263, P = 0.0001).

CONCLUSION: Multivariate analyses for open tibial fractures treated with IMN showed that IMN after EF (especially in existence of pin site infection) was at high risk of deep infection, and that debridement within 6 h and appropriate soft-tissue managements were also important factor in preventing deep infections. These analyses postulated that both the Gustilo type and the existence of deep infection is related with fracture healing in open fractures treated with IMN. In addition, immediate IMN for type IIIB and IIIC is potentially risky, and canal reaming did not increase the risk of complication for open tibial fractures treated with IMN.

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