Pelvic X-ray misses out on detecting sacral fractures in the elderly - Importance of CT imaging in blunt pelvic trauma

Injury. 2016 Mar;47(3):707-10. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2016.01.027. Epub 2016 Feb 1.


Patients aged 75 years and older with blunt pelvic trauma are frequently seen in the ER. The standard diagnostic tool in these patients is the plain a.p.-radiograph of the pelvis. Especially lesions of the posterior pelvic ring are often missed due to e.g. bowel gas projection and enteric overlay. With a retrospective study covering these patients over a 3 year period in our level I trauma centre, we were able to evaluate the rate of missed injuries in the a.p.-radiograph whenever a corresponding CT scan was performed. Age, gender, and accompanying fractures of the pelvic ring were recorded. The intrinsic test characteristics and the performance in the population were calculated according to standard formulas. Thus, 233 consecutive patients with blunt pelvic trauma with both conventional radiographic examination and computed tomography (CT) were included. Thereof, 56 (23%) showed a sacral fracture in the CT scan. Of 233 pelvic X-ray-images taken, 227 showed no sacral fracture. 51 (21.7%) of these were false negative, yielding a sensitivity of just 10.5%. Average age of patients with sacral fractures was 85.1±6.1 years, with 88% being female. Sacral fractures were often accompanied by lesions of the anterior pelvic ring with pubic bone fractures in 75% of sacrum fracture cases. Second most concomitant fractures are found at the acetabulum (23.3%). Plain radiographic imaging is especially likely to miss out fractures of the posterior pelvic ring, which nowadays can be of therapeutic consequence. Besides the physicians experience in the ED, profound knowledge of insensitivity of plain radiographs in finding posterior pelvic ring lesions is crucial for a reliable diagnostic routine. Since the high mortality caused by prolonged immobilisation due to pelvic ring injuries, all fractures should be identified. We therefore provide a diagnostic algorithm for blunt pelvic trauma in the elderly.

Keywords: Blunt pelvic trauma; CT; Elderly; Imaging; Missed injury; Pelvis.

MeSH terms

  • Acetabulum / diagnostic imaging*
  • Acetabulum / injuries
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging*
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osteoporosis / complications*
  • Osteoporosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Pelvic Bones / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pelvic Bones / injuries
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sacrum / diagnostic imaging*
  • Sacrum / injuries
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / statistics & numerical data
  • Trauma Centers
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / complications
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging*
  • X-Rays*