About Pelvic Fractures
The most common symptom of pelvic fracture is pain. Often the pain is felt in the front of the pelvis either midline over the front of the groin or over the front of the right or left hip. Pain can also be felt in the back of the pelvis in the lower back or upper buttock slightly on the right or left side. Movement of either hip or the low back will often worsen the pain therefore patients may prefer to sit or lie still. Some pelvic fractures are accompanied with bruising over the front of the groin or side of the pelvis.
Cause and Anatomy of Pelvic Fractures
Pelvic fractures have both high-energy and low-energy causes. Examples of higher energy mechanisms include car or motorcycle collisions or falls from a significant height, such as a roof or ladder. Low energy causes of pelvis fractures are very common in the elderly population and include falling from a standing position onto either side. Some individuals have very weakened bone secondary to osteoporosis or other causes and may experience a pelvic fracture with little to no injury at all.
The anatomy of the pelvis is similar to a ring: there is a front and back part of the pelvic ring. The back of the pelvic ring is made up of the sacrum bone (the bottom of the spine) and its joint with the right and left ilium bones (making up the right and left SI joints). The front of the pelvic ring is made up of the right and left pubic bones and where they attach in the middle, which is called the pubic symphysis.
Diagnosis of Pelvic Fractures
Concern for the possibility of pelvis fracture is based upon where the patient is complaining of pain and also the cause of the injury. The diagnosis of pelvic fractures is always made through an imaging study, most commonly X-ray or CT scans. Similar to breaking a piece of Cheerios cereal into two halves, it is most common that a pelvic ring fracture has a front injury and a back injury. Less frequently, there are isolated injuries to either the front or back of the pelvis. Fractures of the bone are the most likely injuries to the pelvic ring but there can also be soft tissue injuries to the SI joints in the back of the pelvis or the pubic symphysis in the front of the pelvis.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any other side effects of pelvic fractures?
Pelvic fractures sometimes involve injuries to other tissues in the area, including the bowel, bladder, and the organs responsible for sexual function. While recovering from a pelvic fracture, if you are having any problems with bowel or bladder function or with sexual arousal or function it is important you discuss this with your orthopedic surgeon and primary care provider.
How long does a pelvic fracture take to heal?
Bone healing in a healthy non-smoker adult takes approximately three months. Often there will be some loss of muscle mass in the legs resulting from using an assistive device therefore it takes an additional 2-3 months to regain muscle mass.