The importance of fracture pattern in guiding therapeutic decision-making in patients with hemorrhagic shock and pelvic ring disruptions

Brian J. Eastridge, Adam Starr, Joseph P. Minei, Grant E. O'Keefe, Thomas M. Scalea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

291 Scopus citations


Background: Pelvic fractures may be associated with significant hemorrhage. Although this hemorrhage may emanate from the pelvic vasculature, it may also be secondary to abdominal visceral injury. The purpose of this study was to determine factors associated with pelvic and/or abdominal visceral bleeding in hypotensive patients with pelvic fractures to guide the appropriate therapeutic intervention sequence for these difficult-to-manage patients. Methods: Medical records of all hypotensive (systolic blood pressure ≤ 90 mm Hg) patients with pelvic fractures seen at a Level I trauma center from January 1995 to December 1999 were evaluated. Records were abstracted for age, base deficit, 24-hour blood requirement, hemoperitoneum (positive ultrasound, diagnostic peritoneal lavage, or computed tomographic scan), abdominal hemorrhage discovered at celiotomy, pelvic hemorrhage discovered at angiography, emergency department disposition, Injury Severity Score, and mortality. Pelvic fracture categories were derived by adapting the Young-Burgess pelvic fracture classification scheme. Lateral compression (LC) I and anteroposterior compression (APC) I fractures were characterized as stable fracture patterns (SFPs), and APC II, APC III, LC II, LC III, and vertical shear were characterized as unstable fracture patterns (UFPs). Results: Of 231 hypotensive patients, 38 patients died in the emergency department, leaving 193 surviving initial resuscitation. One hundred seven patients stabilized (group I) and were transferred to the intensive care unit. Eighty-six patients (group II) required ongoing resuscitation and underwent celiotomy and/or angiography in an attempt to manage their hemorrhage. Within group II, in the SFP population, abdominal hemorrhage was responsible for hypotension in 34 of 40 (85%), and 10 patients died (25%). In patients with UFP injury, hemorrhage was predominantly from a pelvic source, as shown by 27 positive angiograms in the 46 patients (59%). Twenty-four of 46 (52%) UFP patients died. In patients with a UFP, 14 had both angiography and celiotomy. Four patients underwent angiography before celiotomy and one of four (mortality, 25%) died. In contrast, 10 patients underwent celiotomy before angiography and 6 of 10 died (mortality, 60%). Conclusion: Patients with signs of ongoing shock with SFP pelvic injury and hemoperitoneum require celiotomy as the initial intervention, as the hemorrhagic focus is predominantly intraperitoneal. In patients with UFP, even in the presence of hemoperitoneum, consideration should be given to angiography before celiotomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-450
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Blunt trauma
  • Intra-abdominal injury
  • Pelvis fracture
  • Shock

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Surgery


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