Skip to content

Paucis Verbis: Antibiotics and open fractures


Fx Tib Fib Open IrrigationOpen fractures come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes fractures create only a small, innocuous-looking puncture through the skin. Other times they look grossly contaminated with organic material and have significant soft tissue injury. The major concern is wound infection. Prophylactic antibiotics are essential in the ED.

Typically antibiotics are first-generation cephalosporins. When do you start adding more coverage with high-dose penicillin or aminoglycosides?


Once you have significant soft tissue injury, you are automatically have a Type III open fracture and should add an aminoglycoside.

PV Card: Open Fractures and Antibiotics

Adapted from 1
Go to the ALiEM Cards site for more resources.

Hoff W, Bonadies J, Cachecho R, Dorlac W. East Practice Management Guidelines Work Group: update to practice management guidelines for prophylactic antibiotic use in open fractures. J Trauma. 2011;70(3):751-754. [PubMed]
Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Editor-in-Chief
Academy Endowed Chair of EM Education
Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD
Michelle Lin, MD

Latest posts by Michelle Lin, MD (see all)