Long-Term Functional Prognosis of Posterior Injuries in High-Energy Pelvic Disruption

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Abstract

Objective:

This study sought to identify the long-term functional results of various posterior pelvic lesions and to determine whether such injuries benefit from exact reduction.

Design:

Consecutive cohort of patients admitted for pelvic disruption between 1980 and 1990.

Setting:

University hospital.

Patients:

Eighty-eight pelvic fractures in eighty-eight patients were classified according to the instability and anatomy of the posterior injury. Simple fractures of the pubic rami, minimally displaced fractures with pubic diastasis of less than 2.5 centimeters, and fractures without other pelvic lesions (type B1 lesions, stage 1 in the Tile classification) were all excluded. Patients with sequelae of associated lesions that could render functional evaluation difficult were also excluded.

Interventions:

The initial status of the patient and the type of fracture determined the treatment. In the anteroposterior compression injuries group, an external fixator using the double-frame Hoffmann device was applied in twenty-eight cases to reduce a large external horizontal displacement, either immediately to control bleeding or later as definitive treatment when anterior internal fixation was not possible. Anterior internal fixation with a plate was used six times to repair a symphyseal disruption. In vertical shear injuries, tibial skeletal traction was used for six weeks as an attempt to stabilize vertical instability. In ten patients, traction alone was used. In other cases, traction was used in conjunction with an external fixator or internal pubic fixation. In impacted lateral compression injuries, simple bed rest for six weeks was used in cases of stable lesions. Skeletal traction was applied in ten patients of this group because of a potential vertical instability, particularly in cases with a comminuted sacral lesion.

Main Outcome Measures:

Anatomic diagnosis and evaluation of the reduction were made using anteroposterior, inlet, and outlet radiographs of the pelvic ring. To assess reduction, vertical, anteroposterior, and rotatory displacement was measured. Functional results were qualified based on the injury pattern and the quality of the final reduction and were then quantified according to the grading proposed by Majeed.

Results:

Functional results varied according to injury anatomy, with fractures of the iliac wing and sacroiliac (SI) fracture-dislocations having the best prognosis. The quality of reduction did not affect the functional results. Conservative methods such as skeletal traction and external fixation generally gave satisfactory functional results. Conversely, however, pure SI lesions were associated with poor functional results, especially if reduction was not exact.

Conclusions:

This study shows that when the posterior injury is a fracture of the iliac wing or a mixed fracture with SI propagation, a long-term satisfactory functional result can be obtained without an exact reduction even in cases of vertical instability. Simple methods are usually sufficient, and it seems unnecessary to propose more aggressive treatment. It is important, however, to recognize that SI fracture-dislocations (17 percent in this series) seem to be quite different from pure SI disruptions in terms of persistent pain. Moreover, it appears that exact reduction of pure SI lesions is critical for good functional results, something that is difficult to obtain with conservative procedures. Sacral fractures represent a special problem for the surgeon because of the frequency of fair results in which neurologic lesions whose pathophysiology is poorly known seem to be responsible.

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