CJEM Articles: fracture
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Allison Tucker, N. Craig Stone
A 65-year-old diabetic female presented with a 3-week history of a left swollen foot after a minor inversion injury and was found to have a minimally displaced fibular fracture. Despite casting and strict instructions to remain non–weight bearing, the patient continued to bear weight and later developed a significantly more displaced fracture with a draining ulcer. This injury eventually required a tibiotalocalcaneal arthrodesis using a retrograde hindfoot nail. Neuropathy and neuropathic fractures can be devastating complications of diabetes and thus require early diagnosis and intervention because they may result in significant morbidity for the patient. Thorough assessment involving imaging, a complete history and physical examination, and tools such as a 129 Hz tuning fork and the 10 g Semmes-Weinstein monofilament are paramount to establishing an accurate initial diagnosis. These tactics aid in future follow-up of the patient's injury and can be employed in both the clinic and the emergency department. Although management remains controversial for neuropathic ankle fractures because both conservative and surgical treatment regimens have high complication rates, open reduction and internal fixation continues to be the treatment of choice once closed reduction has been attempted and fails. Education is essential because diabetic patients have compromised pain and pressure sensation, which can lead to injuries and subsequent complications of which they are simply unaware. Physicians must be diligent when evaluating the diabetic foot and be explicit when providing instructions to these patients because preventing these injuries and their complications is the best patient care available.
Andrew Howard, Brian Seeto, Kathy Boutis, Khalid Al-Ansari, Salma Zaki, Solina Yoo
Background: Emergency department (ED) manipulation of complete minimally angulated distal radius fractures in children may not be necessary, due to the excellent remodeling potential of these fractures.
Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to determine the proportion of minimally angulated distal radius fractures managed in the ED with plaster immobilization that subsequently required manipulation. Our secondary objective was to document, at follow-up, changes in angulation for each wrist fracture.
Methods: This retrospective cohort study reviewed consecutive records of all children with bi-cortical minimally angulated (≤15º of angulation in the sagittal plane and ≤0.5 cm of displacement) distal metaphyseal radius fractures, alone or in combination with distal ulnar fracture. Details of treatment, radiographic findings, and clinical outcomes during the subsequent orthopedic follow up were recorded.
Results: Of 124 patients included in the analysis, none required manipulation after their ED visit. All but 14 (11.3%) fractures were angulated ≤20° within the follow-up period. Two (1.6%) fractures that were initially angulated ≤15° progressed to 30°-35°, but remodeled within 2 years to nearly perfect anatomic alignment. By 6 weeks post-injury, no patients had clinically apparent deformity and all had normal function.
Conclusions: Minimally angulated fractures of the distal metaphyseal radius managed in plaster immobilization without reduction in the ED are unlikely to require future surgical intervention.
Prospective evaluation of clinical assessment in the diagnosis and treatment of clavicle fracture: Are radiographs really necessary?September 2003 5 5Charles Gauthier, Chris Turner, Jeff Boyd, Lance Shepherd, Michael Shuster, Riyad B. Abu-Laban, Sandra Mergler
Introduction: Current recommended treatment for middle-third clavicle fractures is limited to the use of ice, analgesics, a sling, and rest. Radiography for these fractures would be superfluous if physicians could accurately identify them by clinical examination alone. The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether emergency physicians can accurately diagnose clavicle fractures, and whether they can differentiate middle-third fractures from medial- or lateral-third fractures by clinical assessment alone.
Methods: We enrolled a convenience sample of patients who presented to our rural emergency department with possible clavicle fracture between Nov. 1, 2001, and Apr. 30, 2002. Prior to viewing radiographs, physicians scored their clinical certainty of diagnosis on a 10-cm visual analogue scale. When certain of fracture, physicians determined the location of the fracture, the nature of the fracture and their hypothetical comfort in treating the injury without radiography.
Results: In 51 of 77 enrolled patients (66%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 54.6%-76.6%), treating physicians were certain of the diagnosis of clavicle fracture prior to radiography. In these 51 cases, radiography revealed a fracture in 50 cases (98.0%; 95%CI, 89.6%-99.9%). The physicians were 100% accurate for 4 fractures clinically identified as lateral-third fractures (95% CI, 39.7%-100%) and for 41 fractures identified as middle-third fractures (95% CI, 91.4%-100%). They were correct on only 1 of 5 injuries (20%; 95% CI: 1%-72%) they clinically identified as medial-third fractures. Despite high clinical accuracy with middle-third fractures, they stated in 27 of 42 cases (64%; 95%CI, 48.0%-78.5%) that they would have been uncomfortable treating the patient without a radiograph.
Conclusions: This study provides evidence that experienced emergency physicians are highly accurate when they are clinically certain of clavicle fracture. Further, when emergency physicians do clinically diagnose clavicle fracture, they can accurately identify the patient subgroup that will be responsive to conservative treatment. Routine radiography of obvious middle-third clavicle fractures does not appear to improve diagnostic accuracy or treatment decisions.
Amina Lalani, Amy Plint, Bich Hong Nguyen, Blake Bulloch, Gary Joubert, Jeff Perry, Kelly Millar, Martin Pusic, Samina Ali, Tammy Clifford
Objectives: Buckle fractures are the most common wrist fractures in children, yet there is little literature regarding their management. This study examined the management of these fractures and attitudes toward their immobilization by pediatric emergency department (ED) physicians and pediatric orthopedic surgeons.
Methods: A standardized survey was mailed to all pediatric orthopedic surgeons and pediatric ED physicians at 8 Canadian children's hospitals.
Results: Eighty-seven percent of physicians responded, including 33 of 39 pediatric orthopedic surgeons and 84 of 96 pediatric ED physicians. Sixty-four percent of respondents believe that wrist buckle fractures always need to be immobilized; pain control was most frequently cited for this belief. Physicians who did not believe that all buckle fractures need to be immobilized indicated that these fractures are inherently stable and have a low risk of refracture. Forty-eight percent of the orthopedic surgeons prefer below-elbow casts, 30% prefer a combination (splint and cast) and 12% prefer backslabs. Sixty percent of ED physicians "usually or always" use casts and 31% "usually or always" use backslabs. Although there was variation among the orthopedic surgeons regarding the recommended length of immobilization, most (70%) recommended 2 to 4 weeks, although some (12%) treated only until pain free. ED physicians showed greater diversity regarding length of immobilization.
Conclusions: Although many physicians believe that wrist buckle fractures need to be immobilized, a significant number do not. There is substantial variability in the type and length of immobilization used. This variability suggests that the optimal management strategy for wrist buckle fractures is unclear and should be determined in future prospective studies.
Jim Landine, Robert McGraw, William Pickett
Objective: Clavicle fractures are commonly encountered in the emergency department (ED). Our objective was to determine whether emergency physicians can clinically predict the presence and location of a clavicle fracture prior to obtaining x-rays.
Methods: Over a 16-month period we prospectively studied ED patients who had injuries compatible with a clavicle fracture. Following clinical examination and prior to obtaining radiographs, ED physicians or senior emergency medicine (EM) residents were asked to predict whether the clavicle was fractured and, if fractured, the location of the fracture. Clinical predictions were later compared to the radiologist's report.
Results: Between April 1999 and August 2000, 184 patients with possible clavicle fracture were seen and 106 (58%) were enrolled. Of these, 94 had an acute fracture, and all 94 fractures were predicted on clinical grounds prior to x-ray. In 6 cases, physicians predicted a fracture but the radiograph was negative. In 6 additional cases, physicians were clinically unsure and the radiograph was negative. Physicians correctly predicted fracture location in 83 of 94 cases (88%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 82%-95%). In the 64 cases where physicians predicted a middle third fracture, they were 100% accurate (95% CI, 95%-100%). Errors made by physicians were conservative; that is, they occasionally predicted fractures in patients with only soft tissue injury, but they did not "miss" existing fractures.
Conclusions: The results of this pilot study suggest that ED physicians can clinically predict the presence and location of clavicle fractures with a high degree of accuracy. It may be that x-rays are not always necessary in patients suspected of having a clavicle fracture. Future studies should define the indications for diagnostic radiography in patients with suspected clavicle fractures.