A pelvic fracture is a break in one or more of your bones in your pelvis. Pelvic fractures are an uncommon type of fracture that can range from mild to severe. While mild pelvic fractures usually don’t require surgery, severe fractures have to be fixed with surgery.
A pelvic fracture happens when there’s a fracture (break) in one or more of your bones that make up your pelvis. Your pelvis is the area of your body below your abdomen that’s located between your hip bones. Pelvic fractures can be mild or severe.
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The bones that make up your pelvis include:
Together, these bones form what’s known as the pelvic ring. Your pelvis is a highly stable structure that protects many important nerves, blood vessels and organs, including your internal reproductive organs, bladder and the lower part of your digestive tract. It also acts as an anchor for your leg muscles.
Since your pelvis is made of multiple bones, there are many types of pelvic fractures. In general, there are also several kinds of bone fractures depending on the pattern of the break, including:
In addition to the specific pattern that the fracture has, a pelvic fracture is also classified as being stable or unstable:
Although it’s not as common, there’s another type of pelvic fracture called an avulsion fracture. An avulsion fracture happens when a tendon or ligament tears away from the bone it’s attached to, taking a small fragment of bone with it.
Anyone can experience a pelvic fracture at any age. Mild pelvic fractures are more common in older people because they are more likely to have bone-weakening disorders such as osteoporosis. Severe pelvic fractures are most common in people aged 15 to 28 years. Under the age of 35, men are more likely to experience a pelvic fracture, while over the age of 35, women are more likely to experience a pelvic fracture.
Pelvic fractures aren’t very common. Only 3% of bone fractures that adults experience are pelvic fractures. Most pelvic fractures happen from high-impact events such as a car accident or falling from a significant height.
The symptoms of a pelvic fracture depend on how mild or severe it is. Pelvic fracture signs and symptoms can include:
A few situations and conditions can cause a pelvic fracture, including:
All pelvic fractures require X-rays in order to be diagnosed. Your healthcare provider may have you undergo other imaging tests to learn more about your injury.
The following imaging tests can be used to diagnose a pelvic fracture:
Treatment for a pelvic fracture depends on certain factors, including:
Treatment for mild and stable fractures in which your bones aren’t displaced usually doesn’t involve surgery. Treatment for a stable fracture can include:
Treatment for a more severe or unstable pelvic fracture usually requires one or more surgeries. Different types of pelvic fracture surgeries include:
People who experience a severe pelvic fracture from a high-impact accident often have other injuries or internal injuries caused by the pelvic fracture that will also need to be treated. In these cases, the success in treating the pelvic fracture often depends on the success of treating the related injuries.
Mild and stable pelvic fractures can usually heal without medical intervention such as surgery. However, if you have a mild pelvic fracture, you must limit the amount of pressure you put on your pelvis and legs and get enough rest so your fracture can heal properly. It’s important to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible even if you think you have a mild pelvic fracture.
Pelvic fractures usually take 8 to 12 weeks to fully heal. More severe pelvic fractures could take longer, especially if you have other injuries or medical complications from the event that caused your pelvic fracture.
Some risk factors for experiencing a pelvic fracture include:
Depending on your age and lifestyle, there are a few things you can do to try to prevent fracturing your pelvis, including:
The prognosis (outlook) for a pelvic fracture depends on the severity and type of injury. Mild, stable pelvic fractures usually heal well with treatment without long-term complications.
Severe and unstable pelvic fractures that are caused by high-impact events such as car accidents could result in complications such as severe bleeding and organ and/or nerve damage. If these related injuries are treated successfully, the pelvic fracture usually heals well.
Unstable, complex pelvic fractures that are caused by high-impact forces such as a vehicle accident or a significant fall can cause damage to your surrounding organs, nerves and blood vessels in your pelvic region. These subsequent injuries can lead to organ failure, severe bleeding and infection, which can be life-threatening.
Severe and unstable pelvic fractures are more likely to cause complications than mild fractures. The complications are usually a result of nerve and/or organ damage that was caused by the pelvic fracture(s). Complications of pelvic fractures can include:
If you’re experiencing symptoms of a pelvic fracture such as pain in your pelvic region and difficulty walking or standing, be sure to contact your healthcare provider immediately or go to the nearest hospital.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with a fractured pelvis and are experiencing new or concerning symptoms, be sure to contact your healthcare provider.
If you have a pelvic fracture, it may be helpful to ask your healthcare provider the following questions:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Even though your pelvis is a strong and stable bone structure, it can break. A pelvis fracture is painful, and you’ll want to get help with it right away. Since your pelvis protects many important nerves, blood vessels and organs, your healthcare provider will want to make sure you don’t have any other internal injuries from the fracture. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about osteoporosis, too.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/08/2021.
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