Outcomes of tibia shaft fractures caused by low energy gunshot wounds

Charles A. Su, Mai P. Nguyen, Jeffrey A. O'Donnell, Heather A. Vallier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: The purpose of this project was to compare the rates of infections, nonunions, malunions, and secondary operations in tibia fractures resultant from low energy GSWs versus those seen in open and closed tibia fractures resultant from blunt trauma. A secondary objective was to assess the utility of using the traditional Gustilo-Anderson classification system for open fractures to describe fractures secondary to low energy GSW. Methods: A retrospective review of 327 patients with tibia shaft fractures was conducted at our level I trauma center. Patients underwent a variety of interventions depending on their injury. Standard fixation techniques were utilized. Outcome measures include: mechanism of injury, rates of superficial and deep infection, nonunion, malunion, and secondary operations. Results: Deep infection after low energy GSW tibia fractures was uncommon and seen in only 2.3% of patients. Rates of infection after low energy GSWs were similar to low and high energy closed tibia fractures resultant from blunt trauma, but significantly less than that seen in open type II (25%, p < 0.05), type IIIA (19.5%, p < 0.05), and type IIIB fractures (47%, p < 0.01). There were no nonunions following GSW fractures, versus 3.7% after closed tibia fractures from blunt trauma (p = 0.2). Nonunions were more common after open fractures from blunt trauma (11%, p < 0.05) versus GSWs. Differences in infection and nonunion were associated with more secondary operations (18%, p < 0.01) in the open tibia fracture group compared with GSWs (2.3%) and closed fractures (7.9% p = 0.19). Conclusions: While GSWs are traditionally thought of as open injuries, low energy GSW tibia fractures had a low rate of infection and no nonunions, and resulted in a reoperation rate similar to closed blunt tibia shaft fractures and significantly lower than open tibia fractures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1348-1352
Number of pages5
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
AO North America provided a research grant to support this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Antibiotics
  • Fracture classification
  • Gunshot wound
  • Infection
  • Low energy
  • Tibia shaft


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