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The initial treatment of complicated fractures several days old when first seen in Afghan war wounded is reported for 52 limbs in 47 patients. External fixation was the method of choice for stabilizing fractures in adults. In children, traction and plaster-of-Paris were preferred.
In 30 cases (58 per cent) tissue damage was classified as moderate. With radical wound toilet and delayed closure, infection could be controlled in most of these limbs. In 15 fractures (29 per cent) there was severe laceration and exposure of bone. After operation, deep infection persisted in three-quarters of these cases and the fate of these limbs often seemed doubtful. The patients usually refused amputation. However, of seven limbs (13 per cent) in which the fracture was associated with an arterial injury, only one could be saved.
The brief period of observation of only 11 weeks does not permit assessment of time to healing, frequency of late osteitis or definitive amputation rate. It seems, however, that in spite of the lack of any proper first aid for these severe injuries, a functional limb could be salvaged in over two-thirds of the cases, even with our modest resources.
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Accepted: November 17, 1986
© 1987 Published by Elsevier Inc.