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Pelvic Fracture in Geriatric Patients: A Distinct Clinical Entity

Henry, Sharon M. MD; Pollak, Andrew N. MD; Jones, Alan L. MD; Boswell, Sharon RN; Scalea, Thomas M. MD

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery: July 2002 - Volume 53 - Issue 1 - p 15-20
Original Articles

Background  The purpose of this study was to describe differences in demographics, injury pattern, transfusion needs, and outcome of pelvic fractures in older versus younger patients.

Methods  This was a retrospective registry review of all patients with pelvic fractures admitted directly from the scene between January 1998 and December 1999.

Results  We cared for 234 patients with pelvic fractures during the study period. Mean age was 37.2 years, 51% were men, and mean Injury Severity Score (ISS) was 19. Overall mortality was 9%. Eighty-three percent were under the age of 55 years and 17% were older than 55 years. Severe pelvic fractures (AP3, LC3) were more common in young patients (p < 0.05). Admitting systolic blood pressure was lower and heart rate higher, although ISS was not different between the two age groups. Older patients were 2.8 times as likely to undergo transfusion (p < 0.005), and those undergoing transfusion required more blood (median, 7.5 units vs. 5 units). Older patients underwent angiography more frequently and were significantly more likely to die in the hospital even after adjusting for ISS (p < 0.005). This was most marked with ISS 15 to 25. Lateral compression (LC) fractures occurred 4.6 times more frequently in older patients than anteroposterior (AP) compression, and 8.2 times more frequently in those older patients undergoing transfusion as compared with AP compression. Ninety-eight percent of LC fractures in older patients were minor (LC1,2). However, older patients with LC fractures were nearly four times as likely to require blood compared with younger patients.

Conclusion  In older patients, pelvic fractures are more likely to produce hemorrhage and require angiography. Fracture patterns differ in older patients, with LC fractures occurring more frequently, and commonly causing significant blood loss. The outcome of older patients with pelvic fractures is significantly worse than younger patients, particularly with higher injury severity. Recognition of these differences should help clinicians to identify patients at high risk for bleeding and death early, and to refine diagnostic and resuscitation strategies.

From the Departments of Surgery (S.M.H., T.M.S.) and Orthopaedic Surgery (A.L.J., A.N.P.), University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the Section on Wound Healing and Metabolism, R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center (S.M.H., S.B., T.M.S.), and Surgical Critical Care Fellowship, University of Maryland Medical System (T.M.S.), Baltimore, Maryland.

Submitted for publication October 22, 2001.

Accepted for publication January 19, 2002.

This work was scheduled for presentation at the 61st Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, which was canceled because of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Address for reprints: Sharon M. Henry, MD, Program on Trauma, University of Maryland Medical Center, R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, 22 South Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201; email:

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.