Rethinking the Use of Pelvic Binders with Acetabular Fractures

Pelvic binders can provide lifesaving compression in patients with hemodynamically unstable pelvic injuries. But a report in the March 11, 2015 JBJS Case Connector by Auston et al. emphasizes that such binders may do more harm than good in patients who have acetabular fractures without hemodynamic instability or other pelvic injuries. Because first responders or community physicians often apply pelvic binders, the authors cite the need for clearer guidelines for these devices and updated training of early clinical caregivers regarding their use. Potential complications of binder use cited previously in the literature include pressure sores, damage to internal organs, and sciatic nerve palsy, and Auston et al. suggest additional ones.

The authors describe three cases in which patients who were hemodynamically stable were placed in a pelvic binder, either during transport or ED evaluation, following blunt trauma sustained in motor-vehicle accidents. All three patients had acetabular fractures but no other abdominal or pelvic injuries. The authors suggest that pelvic binders may contribute to the displacement of acetabular fractures, and although they saw no visible evidence of chondral damage during open reduction and internal fixation of the fractures, they express concern about occult chondral abrasion and possible damage to chondrocytes at the cellular level if binders are used inappropriately.

The authors therefore conclude that while pelvic binders play an important role in patients with severe pelvic ring injuries and hemodynamic instability, “in the setting of a displaced acetabular fracture, we cannot recommend placement of a pelvic binder, even for pain relief or splinting during evaluation or transportation.”

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