Pelvic packing and angio-embolization after blunt pelvic trauma: a retrospective 18-year analysis

Injury. 2021 Apr;52(4):946-955. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2020.11.039. Epub 2020 Nov 15.


Introduction: Treatment of pelvic trauma related hemorrhage is challenging and remains controversial. In hemodynamically unstable patients suspected for massive bleeding, pre-peritoneal packing (PPP) with temporary external fixation (EF) and subsequent trans-arterial embolization (TAE) can be performed in order to control bleeding. In hemodynamically stable patients suspected for minor to moderate bleeding, primary TAE with EF may be performed. The goal of this study was to determine effectiveness and safety of both strategies.

Methods: Retrospectively, patients that received treatment for pelvic trauma-related hemorrhage at two level 1 trauma centers located in the United States between January 2001 and January 2019 were evaluated. Both centers advocate subsequent TAE in addition to PPP and EF in hemodynamically unstable patients, and primary TAE in stable patients. Demographic and clinical data was collected and mortality, ischemic and infectious complications were determined.

Results: In total, 135 patients met the inclusion criteria. Of these, 61 hemodynamically unstable patients suspected for massive pelvic bleeding underwent primary PPP (45%) and 74 stable patients suspected for minor/moderate bleeding underwent primary TAE (55%). In total, 37/61 primary PPP patients underwent EF (61%) and 48 underwent adjunct TAE (79%), performed bilaterally in 77% and unselective by use of gelfoam in 72% of cases. Primary TAE patients received embolization bilaterally in 49% and unselective in 35% of cases. Exsanguination-related deaths were found in 7/61 primary PPP patients (11%). There were none among the primary TAE patients. Potentially ischemic in-hospital complications, of which one could be considered severe (gluteal necrosis), occurred more in patients that received bilateral unselective TAE compared to all other TAE patients (p=0.02).

Conclusion: Primary TAE appears to be an effective and safe adjunct for (minor) pelvic hemorrhage in hemodynamically stable patients. Primary PPP followed by EF and adjunct bilateral unselective TAE with gelfoam appears effective for those suspected of massive pelvic bleeding. This unselective embolization approach using gelfoam might be related to (ischemic) complications. When considering the amount and severity of complications and the severity of pelvic trauma, these might not outweigh the benefit of fast hemorrhage control.

Keywords: pelvic hemorrhage; pelvic packing; pelvic trauma; trans-arterial embolization.

MeSH terms

  • Embolization, Therapeutic*
  • Fractures, Bone*
  • Humans
  • Pelvic Bones*
  • Pelvis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome