Straight leg elevation to rule out pelvic injury

Injury. 2018 Feb;49(2):279-283. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2017.10.009. Epub 2017 Oct 9.


Objective: Pelvic x-ray is frequently used as a screening tool during initial assessment of injured patients. However routine use in the awake and alert blunt trauma patient may be questioned due to low yield. We propose a clinical tool that may avoid unnecessary imaging by examining whether the ability to straight leg raise, without pain, can rule out pelvic injury.

Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study with the exposure variables of ability to straight leg raise and presence of pain on doing so, and presence of pelvic fracture on x-ray as the primary outcome variable.

Results: Of the 328 participants, 35 had pelvic fractures, and of these 32 were either unable to straight leg raise, or had pain on doing so, with a sensitivity of 91.43% (95% CI: 76.94-98.2%) and a negative predictive value of 98.57% (95% CI: 95.88-99.70%). The 3 participants with a pelvic fracture who could straight leg raise with no pain, all had a GCS of less than 15, and therefore, among the sub-group of patients with GCS15, a 100% sensitivity and 100% negative predictive value for straight leg raise with no pain to rule out pelvic fracture was demonstrated.

Conclusion: Among awake, alert patients, painless straight leg raise can exclude pelvic fractures and be incorporated into initial examination during reception and resuscitation of injured patients.

Keywords: Clinical Decision-making; Computer tomography; Diagnostic techniques & procedures; Fractures; Leg; Multiple trauma; Pelvic bones; Pelvis; Physical examination; Radiography; Shock; Traumatic; Whole body imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnosis*
  • Fractures, Bone / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pelvic Bones / injuries*
  • Pelvic Bones / physiopathology
  • Physical Examination* / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiography*
  • Supine Position
  • Unnecessary Procedures*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnosis*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / physiopathology