Open 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 fracture and should add an aminoglycoside.
PV Card: Open Fractures and Antibiotics
Adapted from  Go to ALiEM (PV) Cards 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]