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Predictors of poor outcome after both column acetabular fractures: a 30-year retrospective cohort study

Philipp Lichte1, Richard M Sellei1, Philipp Kobbe1, Derek G Dombroski3, Axel Gänsslen2 and Hans-Christoph Pape1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Orthopaedic Trauma Surgery, Medical School of the RWTH Aachen, Aachen, Germany

2 Department of Trauma Surgery, Klinikum Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, Germany

3 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas, TX, USA

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Patient Safety in Surgery 2013, 7:9  doi:10.1186/1754-9493-7-9

Published: 19 March 2013


Background and Purpose

Acetabular fractures are often combined with associated injuries to the hip joint. Some of these associated injuries seem to be responsible for poor long-term results and these injuries seem to affect the outcome independent of the quality of the acetabular reduction. The aim of our study was to analyze the outcome of both column acetabular fractures and the influence of osseous cofactors such as initial fracture displacement, hip dislocation, femoral head lesions and injuries of the acetabular joint surface.


A retrospective cohort study in patients with both column acetabular fractures treated over a 30 year period was performed. Patients with a follow-up of more than two years were invited for a clinical and radiological examination. Displacement was analyzed on initial and postoperative radiographs. Contusion and impaction of the femoral head was grouped. Injuries of the acetabular joint surface consisting of impaction, contusion and comminution were recorded. The Merle d’Aubigné Score was documented and radiographs were analysed for arthritis (Helfet classification), femoral head avascular necrosis (Ficat/Arlet classification) and heterotopic ossifications (Brooker classification).


115 patients were included in the follow up examination. Anatomic reduction (malreduction ≤ 1mm) was associated with a significantly better clinical outcome than nonanatomical reduction (p = 0.001). Initial displacement of more than 10mm (p = 0.031) and initial intraarticular fragments (p = 0.041) were associated with worse outcome. Other associated injuries, such as the presence of a femoral head dislocation, femoral head injuries and injuries to the acetabular joint surface showed no significant difference in outcome individually, but in fractures with more than two associated local injuries the risk for joint degeneration was significant higher (p < 0.001) than in cases with less than two of them.

In the subgroup of anatomically reconstructed fractures no significant influence of the analyzed cofactors could be observed.


Anatomical reduction appears to be an important parameter for a good clinical outcome in patients with both column acetabular fractures. Additional fracture characteristics such as the initial displacement and intraarticular fragments seem to influence the results. Patients should also be advised that both column acetabular fractures with more than two additional associated factors have a significantly higher risk of joint degeneration.

Both column acetabular fractures; Outcome prediction; Long term results