Objective: To determine whether the evolution of the authors' clinical pathway for the treatment of hemodynamically compromised patients with pelvic fractures was associated with improved patient outcome.
Summary background data: Hemodynamically compromised patients with pelvic fractures present a complex challenge. The multidisciplinary trauma team must control hemorrhage, restore hemodynamics, and rapidly identify and treat associated life-threatening injuries. The authors developed a clinical pathway consisting of five primary elements: immediate trauma attending surgeon's presence in the emergency department, early simultaneous transfusion of blood and coagulation factors, prompt diagnosis and management of associated life-threatening injuries, stabilization of the pelvic girdle, and timely insinuation of pelvic angiography and embolization. The addition of two orthopedic pelvic fracture specialists led to a revision of the pathway, emphasizing immediate emergency department presence of the orthopedic trauma attending to provide joint decision making with the trauma surgeon, closing the pelvic volume in the emergency department, and using alternatives to traditional external fixation devices.
Methods: Using trauma registry and blood bank records, the authors identified pelvic fracture patients receiving blood transfusions in the emergency department. They analyzed patients treated before versus after the May 1998 revision of the clinical pathway.
Results: A higher proportion of patients in the late period had blood pressure less than 90 mmHg (52% vs. 35%). In the late period, diagnostic peritoneal lavage was phased out in favor of torso ultrasound as a primary triage tool, and pelvic binding and C-clamp application largely replaced traditional external fixation devices. The overall death rate decreased from 31% in the early period to 15% in the later period, as did the rate of deaths from exsanguination (9% to 1%), multiple organ failure (12% to 1%), and death within 24 hours (16% to 5%).
Conclusions: The evolution of a multidisciplinary clinical pathway, coordinating the resources of a level 1 trauma center and directed by joint decision making between trauma surgeons and orthopedic traumatologists, has resulted in improved patient survival. The primary benefits appear to be in reducing early deaths from exsanguination and late deaths from multiple organ failure.