Pelvic and acetabular fractures pose unique challenges that require specialised care. Leading orthopaedic surgeon Mr Andrew Gray aims to provide clear and informative answers to some common questions that can be asked after this serious injury that often requires surgery.
What are pelvic and acetabular fractures?
Pelvic fractures involve a break in the bones of the pelvis, which can be caused by various traumatic events such as motor vehicle accidents or falls. These fractures can vary in severity, from stable fractures that may not require surgery to more complex and unstable fractures.
Acetabular fractures, on the other hand, specifically involve the hip socket (acetabulum). This type of fracture often occurs in conjunction with pelvic fractures or as a result of high-energy impacts. There is also a group of elderly and frail patients that can sustain an acetabular fracture after a fall from a standing height. Acetabular fractures can severely affect hip joint stability and function.
What causes pelvic and acetabular fractures?
Pelvic and acetabular fractures are typically caused by significant trauma, such as:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Falling from heights
- Athletic injuries
- Industrial accidents
- High-energy impacts
- Understanding the cause of your fracture is essential for the orthopaedic surgeon to determine the most appropriate treatment approach.
How are pelvic and acetabular fractures diagnosed?
Diagnosing these fractures typically involves a combination of physical examinations, X-rays, CT scans, and sometimes MRI scans. These imaging studies help us evaluate the extent of the fracture and the associated soft tissue damage, enabling us to make informed decisions about treatment.
Do all pelvic and acetabular fractures require surgery?
No, not all pelvic and acetabular fractures necessitate surgery. The treatment approach depends on several factors, including the type, displacement and severity of the fracture, the patient's overall health, and their functional goals.
Stable fractures may be managed conservatively with pain management, rest, and physiotherapy. However, unstable or displaced fractures often require surgical intervention to restore stability and ensure proper healing.
What surgical options are available?
Orthopaedic surgeons employ various surgical techniques to manage pelvic and acetabular fractures. Some common surgical procedures include:
Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF)
This procedure involves surgically realigning the fractured bones and using screws, plates, or other devices to stabilise the fracture. This is complex surgery performed in a specialist centre.
In cases of severe fractures, external fixation devices may be used temporarily to stabilise the pelvis or acetabulum.
Total Hip Replacement (THR)
In cases where the hip joint is severely damaged, a total hip replacement may be recommended to restore joint function.
Minimally Invasive Surgery
Some fractures can be treated using minimally invasive techniques, which result in smaller incisions and potentially faster recovery times.
What is the recovery process like?
Recovery from pelvic and acetabular fractures can be lengthy and often involves a combination of physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Your orthopaedic surgeon will work closely with you to develop a tailored rehabilitation plan to help you regain strength and function.
Are there potential complications?
As with any surgical procedure, there are potential risks and complications associated with treating pelvic and acetabular fractures. These may include infection, nerve damage, blood clots, and the development of post-traumatic arthritis. However, the likelihood of such complications can be minimised through careful surgical planning and post-operative care.
Can I return to normal activities after surgery?
The ability to return to normal activities depends on several factors, including the severity of the fracture, the type of surgical intervention, and the individual's commitment to rehabilitation. Some patients may fully regain their previous level of function, while others may have some limitations.
If you’re looking for an expert in pelvic or acetabular surgery after a fracture then please arrange a consultation with Mr Gray via his Top Doctors profile.