From 1981 through 1988, 605 patients with pelvic ring fractures and dislocations were treated. In 1982, a protocol for early external fixation of hemodynamically unstable patients and those with structurally unstable pelvic fracture patterns to achieve early mobilization to an upright chest position was initiated. Mortality rates were compared between 1981 (pre-protocol), 1982 (transitional), and 1983 through 1988, after initiation of a protocol of care that included external fixation of the pelvic injury. No statistical changes occurred from 1983 through 1988.Results
Mortality rates in pelvic ring injury patients fell from 26% in 1981, to 6% in 1983 through 1988 (p < 0.001), whereas during the study period the mean Injury Severity Score (ISS), 23, did not change. The mortality rate of a group of consecutive patients with comparable ISSs. but without pelvic ring injuries did not change. The mortality rate in patients with systolic blood pressure < 100 mm Hg at admission fell from 41% in 1981 to 21% 1983 through 1988 (p = 0.0001). Mortality in patients with closed head injuries associated with pelvic ring injuries fell from 43% in 1981 to 7% from 1983 through 1988 (p = 0.0001). The proportion of patients undergoing external fixation rose from 3% in 1981 to 31% in 1983 through 1988 (p = 0.0001).Conclusions
An organized protocol including external fixation and early patient mobilization to an upright chest position reduced mortality associated with injuries of the pelvic ring. Orthopedic stabilization of major skeletal injuries should be viewed as part of patient resuscitation, not reconstruction.