Fluid Lavage of Open Wounds (FLOW): A Multicenter, Blinded, Factorial Pilot Trial Comparing Alternative Irrigating Solutions and Pressures in Patients With Open Fractures
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BACKGROUND: Open fractures are an important source of morbidity and are associated with delayed union, nonunion, and infection. Preventing infection through meticulous irrigation and debridement is an important goal in management, and different lavage fluids and irrigation techniques (e.g., high- or low-pressure lavage) have been described for this purpose. However, there are a limited number of randomized trials comparing irrigating solutions or irrigating technique. We compared the use of castile soap versus normal saline and high- versus low-pressure pulsatile lavage on the rates of reoperations and complications in patients with open fracture wounds. METHODS: We conducted a multicenter, blinded, randomized 2 × 2 factorial pilot trial of 111 patients in whom an open fracture wound was treated with either castile soap solution or normal saline and either high- or low-pressure pulsatile lavage. The primary composite outcome of reoperation, measured at 12 months after initial operative procedure, included infection, wound healing problems, and nonunion. Planned reoperations were not included. Secondary outcomes included all infection, all wound healing problems, and nonunion as well as functional outcomes scores (EuroQol-5 dimensions and short form-12). RESULTS: Eighty-nine patients completed the 1-year follow-up. Among all patients, 13 (23%) in the castile soap group and 13 (24%) in the saline group had a primary outcome event (hazard ratio, 0.91, 95% confidence interval: 0.42-2.00, p = 0.52). Sixteen patients (28%) in the high-pressure group and 10 patients (19%) in the low-pressure group had a primary outcome event (hazard ratio 0.55, 95% confidence interval: 0.24-1.27, p = 0.17). Functional outcome scores showed no significant differences at any time point between groups. CONCLUSION: The fluid lavage of open wounds pilot randomized controlled trial demonstrated the possibility that the use of low pressure may decrease the reoperation rate for infection, wound healing problems, or nonunion. We have demonstrated the desirability and feasibility of a definitive trial examining the effects of alternative irrigation approaches.
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