The management of complex orthopedic injuries

Surg Clin North Am. 1996 Aug;76(4):879-903. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6109(05)70486-2.


As advancements are made in the prevention of automobile fatalities, an increase in the incidence of pelvic and lower extremity injuries has occurred. These remain the leading causes of impairment and loss of years of productive life. Pelvic trauma has a high initial mortality rate when severe. However, with early resuscitation and transport, more survivors arrive in our trauma centers harboring these injuries. Owing to early stabilization and mobilization of the traumatized patient, a decrease in complications in these patients has been noted. Both the trauma surgeon and the orthopedic trauma surgeon should work as a team and remain in continuous communication during the treatment of these patients. Open fractures are among the most difficult problems to manage; early and aggressive decisions can prevent a lifetime of complications and physical impairment. As previously stated, to obtain good outcomes, open fractures must be treated initially at the accident scene followed by timely transport to the trauma center for definitive care. It must be remembered that the golden time to prevent major complications is 6 hours. Intra-articular fractures of the lower extremity involve a major weight bearing joint. Post-traumatic arthritis and impairment develop in joints where joint congruity is not achieved. To preserve normal function, there should be articular congruity, stable fixation, axial alignment with the rest of the extremity, and restoration of full range of motion. Immediate stabilization of long bone fractures has many advantages in the multiply injured patient, such as improved long-term function, prevention of deep venous thrombosis and decubitus ulcer, decreased need for analgesia, and reduction in the incidence of adult respiratory distress syndrome and fat emboli. Patients with femoral shaft fractures should undergo immediate stabilization of the fracture within 24 hours of injury. We have presented a series of orthopedic injuries that have high mortality and high morbidity which, if not treated expediently, yield a high degree of impairment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Debridement
  • Emergencies
  • Femoral Fractures / surgery
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal
  • Fractures, Bone / surgery
  • Fractures, Bone / therapy*
  • Fractures, Closed / therapy
  • Humans
  • Pelvic Bones / injuries
  • Prostheses and Implants
  • Radiography
  • Tibial Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Tibial Fractures / surgery