Open hand fractures: Prognosis and classification

T. V. Swanson, Robert M Szabo, D. D. Anderson

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42 Scopus citations


Two hundred open fractures distal to the carpus in one hundred twenty-one patients were studied retrospectively. One hundred seventy-three fractures were followed-up to complete bony union, which occurred at a median period of seven weeks. Ninety-seven total complications included nine wound infections in seven patients, eighteen malunions, seventeen delayed or nonunions, twenty-three fixation problems, and two late amputations. Infection rate increased in the presence of wound contamination, delay in treatment greater than twenty-four hours, or systemic illness. It was not increased by presence of internal fixation, immediate wound closure, large wound size, tendon/nerve/vascular injury, or high-energy mechanism. We suggest a classification predictive of infection: type I: Clean wound and no systemic illness; type II: Contaminated wound, delay in treatment greater than twenty-four hours, or significant systemic illness. We recommend choosing fracture stabilization on the basis of the mechanical needs of the fracture, regardless of wound size, injury energy, or contamination. Immediate wound closure is appropriate for type I injuries and delayed closure should be reserved for type II wounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-107
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Surgery


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