Diagnosis and guided reduction of forearm fractures in children using bedside ultrasound

Lei Chen, Yunie Kim, Christopher L Moore
Pediatric Emergency Care 2007, 23 (8): 528-31

BACKGROUND: Forearm fractures are common injuries in children. Displaced and angulated fractures usually require reduction. Ultrasound diagnosis and guided reduction offer several potential advantages: (1) the procedure does not involve ionizing radiation; (2) compared with fluoroscopy units, the newer ultrasound units are more portable; and (3) repeated studies can be obtained easily and quickly.

OBJECTIVE: The primary objective was to investigate the accuracy of emergency department (ED) physician-performed ultrasound in the diagnosis and guided reduction of forearm fractures in children.

METHODS: Children suspected of having forearm fractures were enrolled prospectively in an urban pediatric ED from June 2004 to November 2004. A bedside ultrasound of the forearm bones was performed by a pediatric emergency medicine physician. Ultrasound findings were compared with radiograph findings. Reductions were performed under ultrasound guidance. Postreduction radiographs were performed. Any need for further reduction was recorded.

RESULTS: During the study period, 68 patients were enrolled. Radiographs revealed forearm fractures in 48 patients. Twenty-nine subjects had fractures of the radius alone; 17 had fractures of both the radius and the ulna, and 2 had fractures of the ulna alone. Ultrasound revealed the correct type and location of the fracture in 46 patients. The sensitivity for the detection of forearm fractures was 97% (95% confidence interval [CI], 89%-100%) using ultrasound. The specificity was 100% (95% CI, 83%-100%). Twenty-six subjects underwent reduction of their fractures in the ED. Two subjects required rereduction after the initial reduction. The initial success rate of ultrasound-guided reduction was 92% (95% CI, 75%-99%).

CONCLUSIONS: Bedside ultrasound performed by pediatric emergency medicine physicians is a reliable and convenient method of diagnosing forearm fractures in children. It is also useful in guiding the reduction of these fractures.

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