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The Development of Secondary Arthritis After a Pelvic Fracture

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/26/2011

What is secondary arthritis after a fractured pelvis? Here we will discuss how a fractured pelvis may cause secondary arthritis.

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    Secondary arthritis after a fractured pelvis is a possible complication that many patients do not think about after fracturing their pelvis. Pelvic fractures are rather uncommon and can be life-threatening when they are severe. In most cases, a traumatic injury is the cause. Arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation in which the patient often experiences pain, swelling and stiffness in the affected joint.

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    How Does Secondary Arthritis Occur?

    Secondary arthritis after a fractured pelvis is possible and something patients should be aware of. A form of degenerative arthritis may develop depending on how severe the fracture was and how intense the inflammation is that is produced based on soft tissue and cartilage damage. Secondary arthritis may occur when the fracture results in a joint in the pelvis experiencing abnormal mechanics based on the fracture-related damage. Abnormal mechanics increases how much stress is on the articular surface. This will, with time, wear out and result in arthritis.

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    What is a Pelvic Fracture?

    A pelvic fracture means the pelvic bone is fractured. If the fracture is stable, it means that there is one break point within the pelvic ring, the bones remain in place and there is limited bleeding. If the fracture is unstable, it means that there are two or more break points within the pelvic ring and that the bleeding present is moderate to severe. Patients often experience pain in the groin, lower back or hip that may worsen with leg movement or walking. Other symptoms may include groin or leg numbness or tingling, trouble urinating, abdominal pain, trouble standing or walking, or bleeding from the urethra, vagina or rectum. This is a serious injury that requires immediate treatment.

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    Symptoms and Treatment of Arthritis

    The affected joint, or joints, is often painful, stiff and tender. There is typically some degree of flexibility loss and a grating sensation when using the joint. There is also the chance of bone spurs forming around the affected joint.

    Acetaminophen may help some patients with the pain associated with this condition. To help with both pain and inflammation, naproxen or ibuprofen may be beneficial. When doctor's feel a centrally-acting analgesic is necessary, they may prescribe tramadol. When pain is severe, prescription pain medications, such as narcotics, may be prescribed. These carry side effects, such as constipation, drowsiness and nausea and may be habit-forming, however, so they must be used with extreme care and only prescribed when pain is not relieved by other methods. To relieve pain in the joint, cortisone shots may be helpful.

    Therapies and lifestyle changes include physical therapy, shoe inserts or braces, working to avoid stressing the joints and taking a chronic pain class.

    If surgery or medical procedures are necessary, they may include joint replacement, fusing bones, viscosupplementation and realigning bones.

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    Resources

    Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. (2011). Pelvic Fracture. Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center: http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Pelvic-Fracture.aspx

    Mayo Clinic. (2010). Osteoarthritis. Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoarthritis/DS00019

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