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Preperitoneal pelvic packing reduces mortality in patients with life-threatening hemorrhage due to unstable pelvic fractures

Burlew, Clay Cothren MD; Moore, Ernest E. MD; Stahel, Philip F. MD; Geddes, Andrea E.; Wagenaar, Amy E.; Pieracci, Fredric M. MD; Fox, Charles J. MD; Campion, Eric M. MD; Johnson, Jeffrey L. MD; Mauffrey, Cyril MD

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery: February 2017 - Volume 82 - Issue 2 - p 233–242
doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000001324
AAST 2016 Plenary Papers
Editor's Choice

BACKGROUND A 2015 American Association for the Surgery of Trauma trial reported a 32% mortality for pelvic fracture patients in shock. Angioembolization (AE) is the most common intervention; the Maryland group revealed time to AE averaged 5 hours. The goal of this study was to evaluate the time to intervention and outcomes of an alternative approach for pelvic hemorrhage. We hypothesized that preperitoneal pelvic packing (PPP) results in a shorter time to intervention and lower mortality.

METHODS In 2004, we initiated a PPP protocol for pelvic fracture hemorrhage.

RESULTS During the 11-year study, 2,293 patients were admitted with pelvic fractures; 128 (6%) patients underwent PPP (mean age, 44 ± 2 years; Injury Severity Score (ISS), 48 ± 1.2). The lowest emergency department systolic blood pressure was 74 mm Hg and highest heart rate was 120. Median time to operation was 44 minutes and 3 additional operations were performed in 109 (85%) patients. Median RBC transfusions before SICU admission compared with the 24 postoperative hours were 8 versus 3 units (p < 0.05). After PPP, 16 (13%) patients underwent AE with a documented arterial blush.

Mortality in this high-risk group was 21%. Death was due to brain injury (9), multiple organ failure (4), pulmonary or cardiac failure (6), withdrawal of support (4), adverse physiology (3), and Mucor infection (1). Of those patients with physiologic exhaustion, 2 died in the operating room at 89 and 100 minutes after arrival, whereas 1 died 9 hours after arrival.

CONCLUSIONS PPP results in a shorter time to intervention and lower mortality compared with modern series using AE. Examining mortality, only 3 (2%) deaths were attributed to the immediate sequelae of bleeding with physiologic failure. With time to death under 100 minutes in 2 patients, AE is unlikely to have been feasible. PPP should be used for pelvic fracture–related bleeding in the patient who remains unstable despite initial transfusion.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Therapeutic study, level IV.

From the Department of Surgery (C.C.B., E.E.M., A.E.G., A.E.W., F.M.P., C.J.F., E.M.C., and J.L.J.), Denver Health Medical Center and the University of Colorado Denver, Denver, CO, and the Department of Orthopedics (P.F.S., C.M.), Denver Health Medical Center, Denver, CO.

Submitted: August 31, 2016, Revised: October 25, 2016, Accepted: October 25, 2016, Published online: November 23, 2016.

This study was presented at the 75th annual meeting of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, September 14–17, 2016, in Waikoloa, Hawaii.

Address for reprints: Clay Cothren Burlew, MD, FACS, Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Denver Health Medical Center, University of Colorado School of Medicine, 777 Bannock Street, MC 0206, Denver, CO 80204; email:

© 2017 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.