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Ultrasound in the Diagnosis of Pediatric Distal Radius Fractures: Does it Really Change the Treatment Policy? An Orthopedic View.

BACKGROUND: Distal radius fractures are the most common pediatric fractures, increasing in number in recent decades. Although simple bi-planar radiographs are sufficient for diagnosis, wrist ultrasonography has been popularized in recent years for fracture detection, mostly because of the concern about children's radiation exposure. Despite its availability and diagnostic accuracy, ultrasound has not gained widespread acceptance and popularity among orthopedic surgeons. We asked about the reasons for its lack of acceptance as a diagnostic tool by orthopedic surgeons, and its failure to be incorporated into diagnostic algorithms.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: We reviewed the latest articles concerning the use of ultrasound in the diagnosis of pediatric distal radius fracture. Data extraction was performed from each study with a focus on the following items: the specialty field of the authors, number of patients, number of fractures, mean age of the patients, and the gold standard method of diagnosis.

RESULTS: Nine studies concerning the diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound in detecting distal radius fractures in children were included in the review. The most common field of practice of the authors was emergency medicine. Only two studies had an orthopedic surgeon among their authors. All studies employed X-ray imaging as the gold standard method. All studies were designed as prospective trials without randomization of patients. Generally, there was no independent blinded reviewer for the interpretation of ultrasound and X-ray images.

CONCLUSIONS: Most studies were completed by emergency medicine physicians, without involving an orthopedic surgeon. Ultrasound evaluation was undertaken primarily by emergency medicine physicians with little experience. These studies were not randomized controlled trials, and knowledge of the history and clinical presentation of the subjects could have led to information bias. The relatively low number of included patients and lack of follow-up examinations were other limitations. As a result, we believe that ultrasound has not proven to be a suitable substitute for conventional X-ray imaging in the detection of pediatric distal radius fractures. We propose X-ray evaluation as the clinical gold standard method for pediatric wrist fractures.

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