Costs analysis and comparison of usefulness of acute MRI and 2 weeks of cast immobilization for clinically suspected scaphoid fractures

Torbjørn H Bergh, Knut Steen, Tommy Lindau, Lars Atle Soldal, Soosaipillai V Bernardshaw, Lene Lunde, Stein Atle Lie, Christina Brudvik
Acta Orthopaedica 2015, 86 (3): 303-9

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Fractures of the scaphoid are often not detected on initial plain radiographs. Conventional management of clinically suspected scaphoid fractures is cast immobilization for 2 weeks and then reassessment. Early MRI is a diagnostic alternative. We compared the cost and usefulness of the early MRI diagnostic strategy with that of conventional management.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: This prospective pseudo-randomized study included patients between 18 and 49 years of age who attended Bergen Accident and Emergency Department, Bergen, Norway during 1 year in 2009-2010, after sustaining an acute wrist trauma in the previous week and with a clinically suspected scaphoid fracture. 61 patients were investigated with acute MRI, while 63 patients received standard treatment as a control group. We used cost-minimization analysis to estimate the cost of the 2 patient groups.

RESULTS: Concerning cost, there were no statistically significant differences in the total direct medical costs or in indirect costs between the groups. Concerning usefulness, patients in the MRI group without a fracture (n = 35) used a cast for fewer days (mean 1 day) than patients in the control group with no fractures (n = 52) (mean 14 days; p < 0.001). They had less than half the number of days on sick leave than patients in the control group (mean 7 days vs. 15 days; p = 0.002).

INTERPRETATION: In a Norwegian setting, an early MRI was of value in patients with clinically suspected scaphoid fracture and normal plain radiographs.

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