Do inflammatory markers portend heterotopic ossification and wound failure in combat wounds?

Jonathan A. Forsberg*, Benjamin K. Potter, Elizabeth M. Polfer, Shawn D. Safford, Eric A. Elster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Background: After a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have observed an increase in combat-related injury survival and a paradoxical increase in injury severity, mainly because of the effects of blasts. These severe injuries have a devastating effect on each patient's immune system resulting in massive upregulation of the systemic inflammatory response. By examining inflammatory mediators, preliminary data suggest that it may be possible to correlate complications such as wound failure and heterotopic ossification (HO) with distinct systemic and local inflammatory profiles, but this is a relatively new topic. Questions/purposes: We asked whether systemic or local markers of inflammation could be used as an objective means, independent of demographic and subjective factors, to estimate the likelihood of (1) HO and/or (2) wound failure (defined as wounds requiring surgical débridement after definitive closure, or wounds that were not closed or covered within 21 days of injury) in patients sustaining combat wounds. Methods: Two hundred combat wounded active-duty service members who sustained high-energy extremity injuries were prospectively enrolled between 2008 and 2012. Of these 200 patients, 189 had adequate followups to determine the presence or absence of HO, and 191 had adequate followups to determine the presence or absence of wound failure. In addition to injury-specific and demographic data, we quantified 24 cytokines and chemokines during each débridement. Patients were followed clinically for 6 weeks, and radiographs were obtained 3 months after definitive wound closure. Associations were investigated between these markers and wound failure or HO, while controlling for known confounders. Results: The presence of an amputation (p < 0.001; odds ratio [OR], 6.1; 95% CI. 1.63-27.2), Injury Severity Score (p = 0.002; OR, 33.2; 95% CI, 4.2-413), wound surface area (p = 0.001; OR, 1.01; 95% CI, 1.002-1.009), serum interleukin (IL)-3 (p = 0.002; OR, 2.41; 95% CI, 1.5-4.5), serum IL-12p70 (p = 0.01; OR, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.27-0.81), effluent IL-3 (p = 0.02; OR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.2-2.9), and effluent IL-13 (p = 0.006; OR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.50-0.87) were independently associated with HO formation. Injury Severity Score (p = 0.05; OR, 18; 95% CI, 5.1-87), wound surface area (p = 0.05; OR, 28.7; 95% CI, 1.5-1250), serum procalcitonin ([ProCT] (p = 0.03; OR, 1596; 95% CI, 5.1-1,758,613) and effluent IL-6 (p = 0.02; OR, 83; 95% CI, 2.5-5820) were independently associated with wound failure. Conclusions: We identified associations between patients' systemic and local inflammatory responses and wound-specific complications such as HO and wound failure. However, future efforts to model these data must account for their complex, time dependent, and nonlinear nature. Level of Evidence: Level II, prognostic study. See the Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2845-2854
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Orthopaedics and Related Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


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