Infectious complications of damage control orthopedics in war trauma

Rupal M. Mody, Michael Zapor, Joshua D. Hartzell, Paul M. Robben, Paige Waterman, Robert Wood-Morris, Richard Trotta, Romney C. Andersen, Glenn Wortmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Background: War-trauma, especially due to blast injury, can be associated with long bone fracture. Immediate external fixation of fractures, followed by internal fixation when the patient is medically stabilized (damage control orthopedics [DCO]), is the U.S. Army policy for war-related fractures. Data on infectious outcomes when DCO is used for war-trauma fractures are scant. Methods: A retrospective review of U.S. war-trauma patients from 2003 to 2007 with femoral or tibial fractures treated by DCO was conducted. Fisher's Exact and Mann-Whitney tests were used for comparisons. Results: Fifty-eight soldiers were identified. Fifty-five were males with a median age of 26 years (19-54 years) and a median time to internal fixation by intramedually nailing of 9 days (4-414 days). Eighty-eight percent of fractures were open, and 57% were femoral fractures. The median duration of follow-up was 447 days (20-1,340 days). Fracture site infection occurred in 40% (23 of 58), with suspected osteomyelitis in 17% (10 of 58). Of infected nails, fracture union occurred in 70% and nail retention in 57%. Median time to infection after nail placement was 15 days (0-717 days) with 75% of infections occurring by day 113. Multiple bacterial pathogens including Acinetobacter baumannii and Staphylococcus spp. were causative organisms. Blast injuries occurred in 91% of infected versus 47% of uninfected (p = 0.005). There was no difference between infections occurring in femoral (61%) versus tibial (39%) (p = 0.620) location. Conclusions: Infection was associated with 40% of DCO-associated intramedullary nails. Blast injury was a predictor of infection. Despite infection, fracture union and nail retention rates were high, suggesting a good outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)758-761
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Damage Control Orthopedics (DCO)
  • Intramedullary (IM) nail infection
  • War trauma


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