MULTICENTER STUDY
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Mortality, risk factors and causes of death in Swedish patients with open tibial fractures - a nationwide study of 3, 777 patients.

BACKGROUND: Open tibial fractures are serious, complicated injuries. Previous studies suggested an increased risk of death, however, this has not been studied in large population-based settings. We aimed to analyze mortality including causes of death in all patients with open tibial fractures in Sweden. Moreover, we wanted to compare mortality rates with the Swedish population and determine whether treatment-related or demographic variables were independently associated with death.

METHOD: We searched the Swedish National Hospital Discharge Register for all patients with open tibial fracture between 1998 and 2010. We collected the following variables: age, gender, length of stay, mechanism of injury and treatment rendered. We then cross-referenced the Swedish Cause of Death Register to determine the cause of death, if applicable. We compared mortality in the study population with population-based mortality data from Statistics Sweden and determined whether variables were independently associated with death using regression analysis.

RESULTS: Of the 3777 open tibial fractures, 425 (11.3%) patients died. The most common causes of death for elderly patients were cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Patients aged 15-39 years succumbed to external causes (accidents, suicides or poisoning). Increasing age (OR 25.7 (95% CI 11.8-64.8) p < 0.001), length of hospital stay (HR 1.01, (95% CI 1.01-1.02,) p < 0.001), limb amputation (OR 4.8 (95% CI 1.86-11.1) p < 0.001) and cause of the accident were independently associated with an increased mortality.

CONCLUSION: Patients with open tibial fractures have an increased risk of death compared with the general population in all age- and gender-groups. External causes of death are over-represented and indicate a subgroup with a risky behaviour among younger males. Elderly patients have an increased risk of dying comparable to hip fracture patients. They are at risk for cardiovascular and respiratory failure and should be treated with urgency, emphasizing the need for specialized geriatric trauma units.

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