Quantification of radiation exposure in the operating theatre during management of common fractures of the upper extremity in children

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Surgical procedures to manage trauma to the wrist, forearm and elbow in children are very common. Image intensifiers are used routinely, yet studies/guidelines that quantify expected radiation exposure in such procedures are lacking.


Information on demographics, injury type, surgeon grade and dose area product (DAP) of radiation exposure per procedure was collected prospectively for 248 patients undergoing manipulation/fixation of injuries to the elbow, forearm or wrist at a paediatric hospital over 1 year.


DAP exposure (in cGycm2) differed significantly across different procedures (p<0.001): wrist manipulation under anaesthesia (MUA; median, 0.39), wrist k-wiring (1.01), forearm MUA (0.50), flexible nailing of the forearm (2.67), supracondylar fracture MUA and k-wiring (2.23) and open reduction and internal fixation of the lateral humeral condyle (0.96). Fixation of a Gartland grade-3 supracondylar fracture (2.94cGycm2) was associated with higher exposure than grade-2 fixation (1.95cGycm2) (p=0.048). Fractures of the wrist or forearm necessitating metalwork fixation resulted in higher exposure than those requiring manipulation only (both p<0.001). For procedures undertaken by trainees, trainee seniority (between year-5 and year-8 and clinical fellow, p≥0.24) did not affect the DAP significantly.


The spectrum of radiation exposures for common procedures utilised in the management of paediatric upper limb trauma were quantified. These findings will be useful to surgeons auditing their practice and quantifying radiation-associated risks to patients. Our data may serve as a basis for implementing protocols designed to improve patient safety.

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