BACKGROUND: Early fracture fixation in blunt trauma patients is suggested to decrease postoperative morbidity by allowing early mobilization and reducing the release of harmful inflammatory mediators. Some studies have challenged this concept in the presence of severe associated injuries, and especially head trauma. METHODS: The records of 47 consecutive blunt trauma patients with severe head injuries, as defined by a Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) ≤8 and a head Abbreviated Injury Score (AIS) ≥3, and long bone fractures requiring surgical fixation were reviewed. The study population was divided into the early fixation (EF) group, consisting of 22 patients who underwent fracture fixation within 24 hours of admission (mean time 17 ± 8.5 hours); and the late fixation (LF) group, consisting of 25 patients, who had orthopedic repair at a later time (mean 143 ± 178 hours). RESULTS: The two groups were similar in terms of overall injury severity, neurologic injuries, hemodynamic and neurologic status on admission, and operations received. Patients in the EF group had a higher injury severity of extremity fractures (extremity AIS: 2.9 ± 0.2 versus 2.4 ± 0.5, P = 0.0002) and a higher incidence of open fractures (72% versus 36%, P = 0.02). There was no difference in intraoperative and postoperative hypoxic and hypotensive episodes. Neurologic, orthopedic, and general complications were the same between the two groups. The mean GCS on discharge was 12 ± 3 for both groups with equal distribution among patients. Although there was a trend toward longer hospital stay (25 ± 17 versus 17 ± 10 days, P = 0.057) among LF patients, mechanical ventilation days, length of stay, and mortality were not different. CONCLUSIONS: Timing of fracture fixation in this group of blunt trauma patients with severe head injuries did not influence morbidity, mortality, or neurologic outcome.
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