Comparative Study
Journal Article
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Consistency between emergency department and orthopedic physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of distal fibular Salter Harris I fractures.

OBJECTIVE: The objective was to determine diagnostic and management differences between emergency physicians (EPs) and orthopedic physicians (OPs) for patients with distal fibular physis pain without radiographic fracture.

METHODS: Records from patients with emergency department ankle radiographs between January 2006 and March 2008 were reviewed. Inclusion criteria included trauma, fibular physis pain, normal radiographs, and orthopedic follow-up.

RESULTS: Of 1343 patients, 247 met criteria. Emergency physician diagnoses included Salter Harris (SH) I fracture 198 (80%), sprain 5 (2%), other fracture 24 (10%), or other injury 20 (8%). Orthopedic physician diagnoses included SH I fracture 136 (55%), sprain 48 (19%), other fracture 56 (23%), or other injury 7 (3%). Emergency physicians were more likely to diagnose SH I fracture (P = 0.01). Thirty-six patients diagnosed with SH I fracture by EPs were diagnosed by OPs with different fractures, whereas 40 had sprains and 5 had other injuries. A total of 173 (70%) patients were diagnosed with fractures by both EPs and OPs. On the basis of orthopedists diagnosis, EPs did not diagnose 19 (8%) fractures (P = 0.8). EP treatment included splint 157 (64%), boot 82 (33%), air cast 3 (1%), or cast 5 (2%). Orthopedic physician's treatment included splint 2 (1%), boot 46 (19%), air cast 11 (4%), cast 167 (67%), or none 21 (9%).

CONCLUSIONS: Although EPs diagnosed SH I fracture more frequently than OPs, few fractures were missed. Most patients required ongoing immobilization by OPs regardless of final diagnosis. Suspected SH I fractures should be immobilized and referred for orthopedic evaluation.

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