Background: The management of unstable pelvic ring injuries is complex. Displacement is a clear indication for surgical intervention. However, reduction of acute pain after stabilization may have substantial clinical benefits and affect management decisions. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of operative fixation of unstable pelvic ring injuries in diminishing acute pain.
Methods: During a 33-month period, 70 patients with isolated pelvic ring injuries were managed at a Level-1 trauma center and retrospectively reviewed. On the basis of clinical and radiographic instability, 38 patients were managed surgically and formed the study group. Pain was assessed using visual analog scales and narcotic consumption during the index hospitalization.
Results: In the operative group, visual analog scale scores decreased 48% after fixation from 4.71 +/- 1.8 preoperatively to 2.85 +/- 0.8 postoperatively (p < 0.001). Concomitantly, narcotic requirements decreased 25% from 2.26 mg morphine per hour preoperatively to 1.71 mg morphine per hour postoperatively (p = 0.024). The mean total length of hospital stay was 5.6 days (SD, 1.2 days), and the postoperative length of hospital stay was 4.7 days (SD, 1.2 days).
Conclusions: Operative reduction and fixation of unstable pelvic ring injuries significantly decreases acute pain. This has substantial physiologic benefits, particularly by improving mobilization, and should be an additional factor when determining surgical indication and timing.