open fracture

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An open fracture is one where there is a communication between the fracture and the outside world, ie, an associated laceration. This has implications in terms of the management of this type of fracture, in that wound sepsis must be suspected.

Recently there has been a move away from referring to this type of fracture as compound, since abbreviation of this in notes to com. leads to confusion with comminuted fracture. The word "open" is more accurately descriptive.

An open fracture may communicate with the outside world from without, ie, an injury from the external world has exposed bone, or from within, ie, bone is pointing through the skin. The former is more serious because there is a likelihood that contamination - dirt, bits of clothing - has also been forced into the tissues.

Last reviewed 01/2018

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