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Authors of section


Rahul Banerjee, Peter Brink, Matej Cimerman, Tim Pohlemann, Matevz Tomazevic

Executive Editor

Peter Trafton

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ORIF - Iliac crest

1. Introduction

Pure iliac crest fractures do not compromise the stability of the pelvic ring and are mainly treated conservatively.

Open reduction and fixation is normally performed in cases when:

  • persistent pain (does not subside within 1-3 weeks)
  • X-rays show increasing displacement
  • there is significant displacement in active and healthy patients

Great care should be taken to exclude acetabular fractures and unstable pelvic injuries.

The anterior approach to the iliac wing is used with the patient in a supine position. However, stripping of muscles should be kept to a minimum.

orif iliac crest

2. Reduction

Reduction is performed under direct vision using either a reduction forceps or Schanz screws as joysticks.

orif iliac crest

In comminuted fractures, anatomic reduction is not necessary. The basic shape of the iliac wing should be reconstructed.

Temporary fixation is obtained by insertion of K-wires.

orif iliac crest

3. Fixation

A 3.5 mm reconstruction plate is contoured to fit the individual anatomy of the superior part of the iliac crest (green dotted line).

The bone stock of the central fossa is too thin to allow for adequate purchase of screws.

orif iliac crest

The plate is placed and fixed with screws.

orif iliac crest

Alternatively, long 3.5 mm screws placed between the tables of the superior ala can be used. These trans-iliac screws can be further supplemented with plate fixation.

intact posterior arch innominate bone iliac wing fracture

Final X-rays

After completion of internal fixation, confirm the final reduction and hardware position intraoperatively by AP, inlet and outlet radiographic imaging.

operative treatment

4. Aftercare following open reduction and fixation

Postoperative blood test

After pelvic surgery, routine hemoglobin and electrolyte check out should be performed the first day after surgery and corrected if necessary.

Bowel function and food

After extensile approaches in the anterior pelvis, the bowel function may be temporarily compromised. This temporary paralytic ileus generally does not need specific treatment beyond withholding food and drink until bowel function recovers.


Adequate analgesia is important. Non pharmacologic pain management should be considered as well (eg. local cooling and psychological support).


Prophylaxis for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolus is routine unless contraindicated. The optimal duration of DVT prophylaxis in this setting remains unproven, but in general it should be continued until the patient can actively walk (typically 4-6 weeks).


Dressings should be removed and wounds checked after 48h, with wound care according to surgeon's preference.

Wound dressing

Dressings should be removed and wounds checked after 48h, with wound care according to surgeon's preference.


The following guidelines regarding physiotherapy must be adapted to the individual patient and injury.

It is important that the surgeon decide how much mechanical loading is appropriate for each patient's pelvic ring fixation. This must be communicated to physical therapy and nursing staff.

For all patients, proper respiratory physiotherapy can help to prevent pulmonary complications and is highly recommended.
Upper extremity and bed mobility exercises should begin as soon as possible, with protection against pelvic loading as necessary.

Mobilization can usually begin the day after surgery unless significant instability is present.
Generally, the patient can start to sit the first day after surgery and begin passive and active assisted exercises.

For unilateral injuries, gait training with a walking frame or crutches can begin as soon as the patient is able to stand with limited weight bearing on the unstable side.

In unstable unilateral pelvic injuries, weight bearing on the injured side should be limited to "touch down" (weight of leg). Assistance with leg lifting in transfers may be necessary.

Progressive weight bearing can begin according to anticipated healing. Significant weight bearing is usually possible by 6 week but use of crutches may need to be continued for three months. It should remembered that pelvic fractures usually heal within 6-8 weeks, but that primarily ligamentous injuries may need longer protection (3-4 months).

Fracture healing and pelvic alignment are monitored by regular X-rays every 4-6 weeks until healing is complete.

Bilateral unstable pelvic fractures

Extra precautions are necessary for patients with bilaterally unstable pelvic fractures. Physiotherapy of the torso and upper extremity should begin as soon as possible. This enables these patients to become independent in transfer from bed to chair. For the first few weeks, wheelchair ambulation may be necessary. After 3-4 weeks walking exercises in a swimming pool are started.

After 6 weeks, if pain allows, the patient can start walking with a three point gait, with less weight bearing on the more unstable side.

Full weight bearing is possible after complete healing of the bony or ligamentous legions, typically not before 12 weeks.