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J Trauma. 1997 May;42(5):773-7.

Long-term outcomes in open pelvic fractures.

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Department of Surgery, Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Open pelvic fractures represent one of the most devastating injuries in orthopedic trauma. The purpose of this study was to document the injury characteristics, complications, mortality, and long-term, health-related quality of life outcomes in patients with open pelvic fractures.


The trauma registry at an adult trauma center was used to identify all multiple system blunt trauma patients with a pelvic fracture from January of 1987 to August of 1995 (n = 1,179). Demographic data, mechanism of injury, and fracture type were determined from hospital records. Short-term outcome measures included infectious complications, mortality, and length of stay in hospital. Long-term outcomes of survivors were obtained by telephone interview using the SF-36 Health Survey and the Functional Independence Measure.


Open pelvic fractures were uncommon, occurring in 44 patients (4%). Patients with open fractures were about 9 years younger, on average, than patients with closed fractures (30 vs. 39, p < 0.001). Similarly, patients with open fractures were more likely to be male (75 vs. 57%, p < 0.02), more likely to have been involved in a motorcycle crash (27 vs. 6%, p < 0.001), and more likely to have an unstable pelvic ring disruption (45 vs. 25%, p < 0.001). Open pelvic fracture patients required more blood than closed pelvic fracture patients, both in the first day (16 vs. 4 units, p < 0.001) and during the total hospital admission (29 vs. 9 units, p < 0.001). Five patients with perineal wounds did not receive a diverting colostomy; in turn, these individuals had a total of six pelvic infectious complications (one abscess, two with osteomyelitis, and three perineal wound infections). Overall, 11 patients died, six patients were lost to follow-up, and 27 were long-term survivors (mean duration of 4 years). Chronic disability was common after a pelvic fracture, with problems related to physical role performance and physical functioning, and was particularly severe after an open pelvic fracture (p < 0.05 for both as measured by the SF-36).


Patients with open pelvic fractures often survive, need to be treated with massive blood transfusions, and often require a colostomy. They are frequently left with chronic pain and residual disabilities in physical functioning and physical roles, and many remain unemployed years after injury.

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