Introduction: Acetabular fractures consist of complex fracture patterns whereby bone fragments are displaced in different directions. Two-dimensional computed tomography (2DCT) gap and step-off measurements tend to underestimate the multidirectional features of these fractures. The aim was to develop a three-dimensional computed tomography (3DCT) measurement method for acetabular fractures and validate whether this method will provide an observer independent fracture characterization.
Materials and methods: Sixty patients, operated for an acetabular fracture between 2007 and 2018, were included. The displacement was measured on the pre- and postoperative CT scans. Pre- and postoperative CT-based 3D models were made for each patient. Multiple 3D measurements, namely the 3D step-off, gap and the total gap area were introduced to quantify the preoperative and postoperative displacement. The Wilcoxon signed rank analysis was used to compare the 2DCT and 3DCT measurements.
Results: The preoperative displacement was significantly underestimated by 2DCT measurements in comparison with 3DCT measurements (2D vs. 3D; step-off 8 vs. 16 mm with P < 0.001; gap 19 vs. 21 mm with P = 0.001). The same applies to the postoperative residual displacement (2D vs. 3D; step-off 0 vs. 6 mm; gap 3 vs. 8 mm; P < 0.001). The total gap area, defined as the surface area between all fracture lines in the 3D model, was measured for each patient, resulting in a median value of 722 mm2 preoperatively and 168 mm2 postoperatively, with excellent inter- and intra-rater reliability.
Conclusion: 2DCT measurements tend to underestimate the initial and residual displacement in complex acetabular fractures. A 3DCT analysis of these injuries was developed to overcome this and should be used in addition to the Judet/Letournel and AO/OTA classification systems, in order to provide an observer independent quantifiable fracture description and accurate assessment of the fracture reduction.