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AIMS: This study estimated trends in incidence of open fractures and the adherence to clinical standards for open fracture care in England. METHODS: Longitudinal data collected by the Trauma Audit and Research Network were used to identify 38,347 patients with open fractures, and a subgroup of 12,170 with severe open fractures of the tibia, between 2008 and 2019 in England. Incidence rates per 100,000 person-years and 95% confidence intervals were calculated. Clinical care was compared with the British Orthopaedic Association Standards for Trauma and National Major Trauma Centre audit standards. RESULTS: In total, 60% of all open fractures occurred in males; the median age was 48 years (interquartile range (IQR) 29 to 68). Between 2012 and 2019, the overall incidence in England was 6.94 per 100,000 person-years. In males, the highest incidence observed was in those aged 20 to 29 years (11.50 per 100,000 person-years); in females, incidence increased with age, peaking at 32.11/100,000 person-years at 90 years of age and over. Among those with severe open fractures of the tibia, there was a bimodal distribution in males, peaking at 20 to 29 years (3.71/100,000 person-years) and greater than 90 years of age (2.84/100,000 person-years) respectively; among females, incidence increased with age to a peak of 9.91/100,000 person years at 90 years of age and over. There has been variable improvement with time in the clinical care standards for patients with severe open fractures of the tibia. The median time to debridement was 13.0 hours (IQR 6.4 to 20.9); almost two-thirds of patients underwent definitive soft-tissue coverage within 72 hours from 2016 to 2019. CONCLUSION: This is the first time the incidence of all open fractures has been studied using data from a national audit in England. While most open fractures occurred in young males, the incidence increased with age in females to a much greater level than observed in older males. The degree of missing data in the national audit is startling, and limits the certainty of inferences drawn concerning open fracture care. Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2022;104-B(6):736-746.

Original publication




Journal article


Bone joint j

Publication Date





736 - 746


British Orthopaedic Association, Epidemiology, Incidence, Open fractures, Orthopaedic Trauma, Trends, debridement, internal fixation, open fractures, open fractures of the tibia, open long bone fractures, phalanges, plastic surgeons, soft-tissue, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Cohort Studies, Female, Fractures, Open, Humans, Incidence, Male, Middle Aged, Tibial Fractures, Trauma Centers