Primary closure of skin wounds after debridement of open fractures is controversial. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether primary skin closure for grade-IIIA or lower-grade open extremity fractures is associated with a lower deep-infection rate.

We identified 349 Gustilo-Anderson grade-I, II, or IIIA fractures treated at our level-I academic trauma center from 2003 to 2007. Eighty-seven injuries were treated with delayed primary closure, and 262 were treated with immediate closure after surgical debridement. After application of a propensity score-matching algorithm to balance prognostic factors, 146 open fractures (seventy-three matched pairs) were analyzed.

After application of a propensity score-matching algorithm with adjustment for age, sex, time to debridement, American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) class, fracture grade, evidence of gross contamination, and a tibial fracture rather than a fracture at another anatomic site, the two treatment groups were compared with respect to the prevalence of infection. Deep infection developed at the sites of three of the seventy-three fractures treated with immediate closure (infection rate, 4.1%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.86 to 11.5) compared with thirteen in the matched group of seventy-three fractures treated with delayed primary closure (infection rate, 17.8%; 95% CI, 9.8 to 28.5) (McNemar test, p = 0.0001).

Immediate closure of carefully selected wounds by experienced surgeons treating grade-I, II, and IIIA open fractures is safe and is associated with a lower infection rate compared with delayed primary closure.

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