A pelvic fracture is defined as one or more breaks, also known as fractures, of the bones that make up the pelvis. Several organs, blood vessels, and nerves are located in this area. Because of this, a pelvic fracture is a serious injury that needs immediate care to prevent current and future complications.
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Pelvic fractures are caused by:
- Car, motorcycle, or pedestrian collisions
- High-impact sports injuries
Factors that may increase your chance of a pelvic fracture include:
- History of falls
Decreased bone mass—
- Decreased muscle strength
- History of trauma in young children and adolescents, especially during sports
A pelvic fracture may cause:
- Pelvic pain
- Pain upon walking, or inability to walk
- Swelling and bruising
- Feeling of a pulled muscle, especially in adolescents that participate in sports
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done to assess the extent of your injury. You may be referred to a doctor who is a trauma specialist and/or a doctor who is a bone specialist.
Tests may include:
Imaging tests can evaluate the pelvic region and surrounding structures. These may include:
A pelvic fracture is a serious injury that may be complicated by injuries to other parts of your body. Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:
Initial treatment focuses on managing life-threatening problems, such as bleeding or shock. Your fracture may be held in place with a sheet wrap or an external fixation device. With an external fixation device, screws are inserted through the bones and connected to a frame on the outside of your body.
Traction may be used realign and stabilize the fracture if you can't have surgery right away.
Stable fractures will heal without surgery. Unstable fractures are treated with surgery. Some fractures can be set with an external fixation device. Others may require repair with internal pins, screws, or plates.
Extra support may be needed to protect, support, and keep your pelvic bone in line while it heals. Supportive steps using a walker or crutches to help you move around while keeping weight off your legs and pelvis.
Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be given to help reduce inflammation and pain. Blood thinners reduce the risk of blood clots.
Check with your doctor before taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Healing time varies by age and your overall health. Young people and those in better overall health heal faster. It may take several months for an unstable fracture to heal.
Complications of a pelvic fracture can be temporary or permanent. These include:
Nerve damage, which can affect
- Bladder function
- Sexual function
You will need to adjust your activities while your pelvic bone heals, but complete rest is rarely required.
As you recover, you may be referred to physical therapy or rehabilitation to start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. Do not return to activities or sports until your doctor gives you permission to do so.
To help reduce your chance of a pelvic fracture:
- Prevent falls by using a stool or stepladder to reach high places. Add handrails along stairways and place nonslip mats in your bathroom, shower, and under carpets.
- Wear a seatbelt in any vehicle your drive or ride in.
- Never drive if you have been drinking, or ride with anyone who has.
- Use proper safety gear for any high-risk sports you participate in.
- Maintain your muscle strength with regular exercise.
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Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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