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Utility of routine postoperative chest radiography in patients undergoing clavicle fixation: a retrospective chart review.

BACKGROUND: Although uncommon, pneumothorax is a potentially serious complication following open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) of clavicle fractures. In many centres it is routine practice to obtain postoperative chest radiographs following ORIF of clavicle fractures to assess for iatrogenic pneumothorax. Given the need to contain health care costs, the low sensitivity for detecting small pneumothorax and a desire to decrease patient radiation exposure, the practice of ordering chest radiographs following ORIF of clavicle fractures may be unnecessary.

METHODS: All patients undergoing ORIF of clavicle fractures with plate and screw fixation at Kingston Health Sciences Centre between April 2009 and June 2020 were identified from the Discharge Abstract Database (inpatient) and National Ambulatory Care Reporting System (outpatient) using relevant Canadian Classification of Health Intervention procedure codes. Charts were manually reviewed to confirm diagnosis and procedure, and patients with preoperative pneumothorax were excluded. The frequency of postoperative chest radiograph and pneumothorax detection were calculated.

RESULTS: Among the 292 patients who underwent ORIF of clavicle fractures during the study period, 17 were excluded for having a pneumothorax on preoperative chest radiograph. Of the remaining 275 patients, 101 (36.7%) had postoperative chest radiographs, of whom none were found to have postoperative iatrogenic pneumothorax.

CONCLUSION: Since 2009, the rate of routine postoperative chest radiography following ORIF of clavicle fractures is 36.7% at our centre. During this time period, none of the 101 patients who had postoperative chest radiographs had a postoperative iatrogenic pneumothorax. To our knowledge, this is the largest series of patients available, and our findings confirm those of several smaller studies. Owing to the low rate of postoperative iatrogenic pneumothorax, we conclude that postoperative chest radiography is unnecessary following ORIF of clavicle fractures.

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