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BACKGROUND: Hemorrhage from pelvic vessels is a potentially lethal complication of pelvic fractures. There is ongoing controversy on the ideal treatment strategy for patients with pelvic hemorrhage. The aim of the study was to analyze the role of angiography and subsequent embolization in patients with pelvic fractures and computed tomography scan-proven vascular injuries.

METHODS: The data from the prospective multicenter German pelvic injury registry were analyzed. Of 5,040 patients with pelvic fractures, 152 patients with associated vascular injuries were identified. Patients undergoing angioembolization (n = 17) were compared with those undergoing conventional measures for hemorrhage control (n = 135) with regard to demographic and physiologic parameters, fracture type distribution, and treatment measures. Outcome measures were mortality, requirement for blood transfusions, complications, and hospital length of stay.

RESULTS: Embolization and nonembolization groups were comparable with regard to age, sex, Injury Severity Score, Hannover Polytrauma Score, initial hemoglobin levels, blood pressure, fracture distribution, and conventional measures. Blood transfusion requirement was significantly prolonged in the embolization group. This resulted in a higher adult respiratory distress syndrome incidence and a tendency toward increased multiple organ failure rate in this group. There was no significant difference in overall mortality rate when compared with the nonembolization group (17.6% vs. 32.6%, respectively; p = 0.27). None of the patients undergoing embolization died from exsanguination when compared with 20.6% in the nonembolization group (p = 0.038).

CONCLUSION: Angioembolization alongside with conventional measures is an effective complementary means for hemorrhage control in patients sustaining pelvic fracture-related vascular lesions. It might prove even more effective when performed early enough to avoid prolonged blood transfusion requirement. Further studies without the mentioned limitations of the study are desired.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic study, level IV.

(C) 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.