Management of an Open Acetabular Fracture in a Skeletally Immature Patient

Sarah Y Clutter1, Steven J Morgan*, 1, Mark Erickson2, Wade R Smith1, Philip F Stahel1
1 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Denver Health Medical Center, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, CO 80204, USA
2 Department of Pediatric Orthopedics, The Children’s Hospital, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, CO 80218, USA

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2007 Bentham Science Publishers Ltd.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestrictive use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Orthopedic Sugery, Denver Health Medical Center, University of Colorado School of Medicine, 777 Bannock Street, Denver, CO 80204, USA; Tel: 303 436-6581; Fax: 303 436-3123; E-mail:



Open acetabular fractures in children are rare, but potentially devastating injuries. Secondary to the low incidence, there is an apparent lack of reports on appropriate management strategies for open pediatric acetabular fractures in the literature.


Description of a case study.


A 3 years and ten months-old girl was ejected as a passenger from an all terrain vehicle. She sustained a displaced, grade IIIA open left anterior column acetabular fracture. The injury was treated by extending the open wound to a formal first window of the ilioinguinal approach. After surgical debridement, the anterior column was reduced anatomically and fixed by two lag screws which avoided the tri-radiate cartilage. A vaginal laceration was debrided and repaired. The patient was treated in a spica cast without weight bearing on the left lower extremity for 8 weeks. No perioperative complications occurred. The acetabular fracture healed in an anatomic position within 8 weeks. To avoid premature closure of the tri-radiate cartilage, the patient underwent a physeal bar resection at one year after injury. At two-year follow up, she was walking and running without pain and had a free range of motion of her left hip.


Operative management should represent the therapy of choice for open, displaced pediatric acetabular fractures. After fracture healing, a scheduled physeal bar resection may be required for injuries which involve the tri-radiate cartilage.