Effect of Tourniquet Use During Surgical Treatment of Open Fractures Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: We sought to evaluate whether tourniquet use, with the resultant ischemia and reperfusion, during surgical treatment of an open lower-extremity fracture was associated with an increased risk of complications. METHODS: This is a retrospective cohort study of 1,351 patients who had an open lower-extremity fracture at or distal to the proximal aspect of the tibia and who participated in the FLOW (Fluid Lavage of Open Wounds) trial. The independent variable was intraoperative tourniquet use, and the primary outcome measures were adjudicated unplanned reoperation within 1 year of the injury and adjudicated nonoperative wound complications. RESULTS: Unplanned reoperation and nonoperative wound complications were roughly even between the no-tourniquet (18.7% and 19.1%, respectively) and tourniquet groups (17.8% and 20.8%) (p = 0.78 and p = 0.52). Following matching, as determined by model interactions, tourniquet use was a significant predictor of unplanned reoperation in Gustilo Type-IIIA (odds ratio, 3.60; 95% confidence interval, 1.16 to 11.78) and IIIB fractures (odds ratio, 16.61; 95% confidence interval, 2.15 to 355.40). CONCLUSIONS: The present study showed that tourniquet use did not influence the likelihood of complications following surgical treatment of an open lower-extremity fracture. However, in cases of severe open fractures, tourniquet use was associated with increased odds of unplanned reoperation; surgeons should be cautious with regard to tourniquet use in this setting. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.


  • Gitajn, Ida Leah
  • Werth, Paul M
  • Sprague, Sheila
  • Bzovsky, Sofia
  • Petrisor, Brad A
  • Jeray, Kyle J
  • O’Hara, Nathan N
  • Bhandari, Mohit
  • Slobogean, Gerard

publication date

  • March 11, 2021