A pelvic fracture is one or more breaks 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. Immediate care is important to prevent complications.
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Pelvic fractures are caused by hard impact traumas such as:
- 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— osteoporosis
- 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 past health. A physical exam will be done.
Imaging tests of the area may be taken with one or more of the following:
Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:
Life-threatening problems, such as bleeding or shock will need to be managed first. The bones will be stabilized until other issues are stable. Steps to repair the bone will depend on the amount of damage. Treatment options for the bone include:
- Traction may be used realign and stabilize the fracture if surgery can't be done right away.
- Stable fractures will heal without surgery.
Unstable fractures are treated with surgery.
- Some fractures can be set with an external fixation device. Screws are placed through the bones to a frame on the outside of the body.
- Others can be repaired with internal pins, screws, or plates.
- Extra support may be needed to protect the pelvis while it heals. A walker or crutches may be needed to keep weight off the pelvis.
Prescription or over-the-counter pain pills may be given to help reduce inflammation and pain. Blood thinners reduce the risk of blood clots.
Rest and Recovery
Healing time varies by age and 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
Activities will need to be adjusted while your pelvic bone heals. Complete rest is rarely required.
Physical therapy or rehabilitation will be used to improve range of motion.
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.
The American Pediatric Surgical Association
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Women's Health Matters
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Last reviewed February 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 02/12/2019