Background: Unstable pelvic ring disruptions are often associated with significant morbidity and mortality, especially in patients with multiple injuries. Early pelvic fixation provides stability and should diminish ongoing hemorrhage. A simple anterior single-pin pelvic external fixator can be applied rapidly and accurately to stabilize pelvic ring injuries as a part of the initial patient resuscitation of such patients. Simple anterior pelvic external fixation (SAPEF) frames can be used as either temporary, definitive, or supplementary fixation depending on the pelvic injury pattern.
Methods: Over a 32-month period, 41 patients with unstable pelvic ring disruptions were stabilized using a simple anterior pelvic external fixator. Eight patients had open pelvic ring injuries and 13 others had genitourinary system disruptions. Fluoroscopic imaging was used to insert all of the fixation pins into the iliac crest between the iliac cortical tables to a depth of at least 5 cm. Each patient had closed manipulative reduction of the pelvic ring using external methods before SAPEF application.
Results: One patient died less than 24 hours after injury because of torrential hemorrhage. Clinical evaluations and serial radiographs, including postoperative computed tomographic scans, were available for the other 40 patients postoperatively. Seventy-five of the 80 (94%) pins were completely contained between the iliac cortical tables, according to the computed tomographic scans. The initial pelvic closed reductions were maintained until the fixators were removed in 37 of 40 patients (93%). Only one deep pin track infection developed, mandating early frame removal and intravenous antibiotic therapy.
Conclusion: Simple anterior pelvic external fixation can be applied rapidly using fluoroscopic guidance to direct accurate pin insertion and closed manipulative reduction of the pelvis. Depending on the specific pelvic ring injury pattern and clinical scenario, SAPEF can serve as a resuscitative temporary fixation device, as definitive pelvic treatment, or as a supplement for pelvic internal fixation implants.
From the Section of Orthopaedic Surgery (M.C.T.), Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia, and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery (S.E.N., P.T.S., M.L.C.R.), Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Washington.
Submitted for publication September 13, 1999.
Accepted for publication August 15, 2000.
Address for reprints: M. L. Chip Routt, Jr., MD, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Harborview Medical Center, Box 359798, 325 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104.