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Safety and efficacy of the extended iliofemoral approach in the treatment of complex fractures of the acetabulum

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There remains uncertainty about the most effective surgical approach in the treatment of complex fractures of the acetabulum. We have reviewed the experience of a single surgeon using the extended iliofemoral approach, as described by Letournel.

A review of the database of such fractures identified 106 patients operated on using this approach with a minimum follow-up of two years. All data were collected prospectively. The fractures involved both columns in 64 (60%). Operation was undertaken in less than 21 days after injury in 71 patients (67%) and in 35 (33%) the procedure was carried out later than this. The reduction of the fracture was measured on plain radiographs taken after operation and defined as anatomical (0 to 1 mm of displacement); imperfect (2 to 3 mm) or poor (> 3 mm). The functional outcome was measured by the modified Merle d’Aubigné and Postel score. The mean follow-up was for 6.3 years (2 to 17).

All patients achieved union of the fractures. The reduction was graded as anatomical in 76 (72%) of the patients, imperfect in 23 (22%), and poor in six (6%). The mean Merle d’Aubigné and Postel score was 15 (5 to 18) with 68 patients (64%) showing good or excellent and 38 (36%) fair or poor results. Function correlated significantly with the accuracy of the reduction (p < 0.009). Significant heterotopic ossification developed in 32 patients (30%) and was associated with a worse mean Merle d’Aubigné and Postel score of 13.7.

The extended iliofemoral approach can be performed safely in selected complex acetabular fractures with an acceptable clinical outcome and rate of complications. Effective prophylaxis against heterotopic ossification should be strongly considered.

Correspondence should be sent to Dr P. E. Beaulé; e-mail: pbeaule@laoh.ucla.edu

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