Pelvic Acetabular Fractures

Most pelvic and acetabular fractures are caused by some type of traumatic, high-energy event, such as a car collision. Because the pelvis is in proximity to major blood vessels and organs, pelvic fractures may cause extensive bleeding and other injuries that require urgent treatment.

Acetabular fractures vary. For example, the bone can break straight across the socket or shatter into many pieces. When the acetabulum is fractured, the femoral head may no longer fit firmly into the socket, and the cartilage surface of both bones may be damaged.

If the joint remains irregular or unstable, ongoing cartilage damage to the surfaces may lead to arthritis.

Treatment for high-energy pelvic fractures and acetabular fractures usually involves surgery to reconstruct the pelvis and acetabulum to restore the hip stability so that patients can resume their daily activities.

Most acetabular fractures are not operated on right way. Your doctor may delay your surgery a few days to make sure your overall condition is stable and you are prepared for the procedure.

In some cases, an external fixator is used to stabilize the bones until healing is complete. In patients who are unable to tolerate a lengthy, more complicated procedure, an external fixator may be used as a temporary treatment until another procedure can be performed.

In this x-ray, an external fixator has been used to stabilize the pelvis

During this operation, the displaced bone fragments are first repositioned (reduced) into their normal alignment. They are then held together with screws or metal plates attached to the outer surface of the bone.

In this x-ray, plates and screws have been used to repair a fractured pelvis.

It typically takes from 3 to 9 months for an acetabular fracture to completely heal. The outcomes of treatment will vary from patient to patient, depending on the following:

  • Pattern and severity of the fracture
  • Other injuries associated with the trauma
  • Patient's age and bone quality
  • Patient's general health, including smoking status. Research indicates that smoking can slow down bone healing and increase the risk for other complications