Mr Matthew Gee MBBS, BSC, MSC, FRCS (Tr&Orth) Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Acetabular Fractures

An acetabular fracture is a type of pelvic fracture that occurs when the socket of the hip joint is damaged. Surgery is usually needed to reconstruct the hip socket, but rest and rehabilitation will also play an important role in treating acetabular fractures.

What is an Acetabular Fracture?

The acetabulum is the socket of your hip joint, into which the ball at the top of the femur fits. An acetabular fracture usually occurs as a result of direct trauma when the femoral head is driven upwards into the socket. Acetabular fractures are typically caused by high energy injuries such as road traffic accidents or falls from height. Increasingly we are seeing acetabular fractures caused by low energy injuries such as falls from standing height in elderly patients with osteoporotic bone.

Diagnosing an Acetabular Fracture

Images of the hip will usually be taken with X-rays and CT scans in order to get a clearer understanding of the injury and plan whether surgery is needed or not.

Treating an Acetabular Fracture

The immediate priority for acetabular fracture treatment is to ensure that the head of the femur is restored to its correct position if it has been dislocated. The leg will then be held in traction to prevent the joint from dislocating again. Further treatment can then be performed by an orthopaedic surgeon according to the patient’s needs.

Surgery is usually required to repair the damage to the hip socket, although in some cases it may be enough for the joint to remain immobilised for six to eight weeks. The procedure should be performed as quickly as possible after the injury, unless it is necessary to wait for the patient‘s condition to improve. During surgery for acetabular fractures, the joint surfaces will usually be reconstructed with plates or screws. The surgeon can also put the bone fragments back into place, remove fragments from inside the hip joint, or make the joint stable again. However, if the damage is severe a total hip replacement may also be required.

Recovering from an acetabular fracture can be lengthy. Patients will usually be able to walk with crutches following surgery but may be restricted in the amount of weight they can put on the leg for ten to twelve weeks. Physiotherapy can help to restore mobility once the fracture has healed.

If you need to talk to an orthopaedic surgeon about an acetabular fracture, you should get in touch to arrange an appointment at a time that is convenient for you. The surgeon will be able to advise on treatment options and perform surgery if needed.


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