Objective To review external fixation in the management of war injuries.
Method We prospectively followed up 15 external fixators (14 patients) applied in the management of war injuries. All these patients were treated at 202 Field Hospital during the 2003 Gulf Conflict.
Results Of the 15 fixators, 13 (86.7%) required early revision or removal due to complications of the injury or the fixator. Instability was a problem with 10 fixators (67%), pin loosening was noted with 5 fixators (33%) involving twelve pins, and a significant pin track infection developed at 14 pin sites (3 fixators – 20%), which failed to resolve despite intravenous antibiotics.
Conclusions This study demonstrates a very high early complication rate of external fixation in the management of military injuries and cautions against its universal acceptance. If used, consideration must be given to the optimum time of frame application, whether at the time of initial debridement or at a later operation, and the optimal frame design, which will depend on the specific bone and fracture pattern. Pin site care must also be considered, particularly with the restrictions imposed by the military environ-ment.
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