The role of anterior supra-acetabular external fixator as definitive treatment for anterior ring fixation in unstable pelvic fractures

Abstract

Purpose

Management of anterior ring injuries is still a matter of discussion, and there are only few studies reporting anterior external fixator as definitive treatment for unstable pelvic injuries. This study aimed to describe the clinical and radiological outcomes of a consecutive series of mechanically unstable pelvic injuries that were treated with definitive anterior supra-acetabular external fixator for the anterior ring, and to identify risk factors for failure.

Methods

We included a consecutive series of patients with unstable pelvic ring fractures who underwent anterior supra-acetabular external fixation for definitive treatment, between January 2012 and January 2020. All demographics, associated injuries and procedures, injury mechanism, and complications were analysed. Pelvic fracture was classified based on Orthopaedic Trauma Association/Tile AO (OTA/AO) and Young–Burgess classifications. Complications associated with the external fixator were revised. All patients were functionally evaluated at final follow-up and asked to report their clinical outcomes using the Majeed score.

Results

A total of 47 patients were included, of which 25 were females. The median age was 44 years (interquartile range 23–59). Median follow-up duration was 14 months (interquartile range 6–31). The most frequent aetiology was motor vehicle accident (35), followed by fall from height (8). All fractures required posterior pelvic ring fixation. The median time during which patients had external fixation in situ was 11 weeks (interquartile range 9–13). All patients achieved healing of pelvic fracture at median time of 10 weeks (interquartile range 8–12). At final follow-up, the median displacement of the anterior pelvis was 6 mm (interquartile range 0–11). Superficial infection was the most common complication (n = 7). No washout procedures were needed. No major complication was reported. No patient required reoperation for anterior ring fracture. The median Majeed score was 88 points (range 60–95; interquartile range 80–90) at final follow-up.

Conclusion

Our findings suggest that the use of supra-acetabular external fixator is safe and effective for definitive treatment of the anterior ring in unstable pelvic fractures. It is a method with high proportion of excellent results, regardless of the type of fracture. The rate of complications is low, and it does not compromise functional results.

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Correspondence to Cristián Barrientos-Mendoza.

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Barrientos-Mendoza, C., Brañes, J., Wulf, R. et al. The role of anterior supra-acetabular external fixator as definitive treatment for anterior ring fixation in unstable pelvic fractures. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00068-021-01711-2

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Keywords

  • Unstable pelvic ring injuries
  • Anterior ring pelvic fractures
  • Definitive stabilisation
  • Supra-acetabular external fixation
  • Ex fix
  • External fixation
  • Pelvic fracture