How do clinical features help identify paediatric patients with fractures following blunt wrist trauma?

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Abstract

Objective:

Wrist injuries are a common presentation to the emergency department (ED). There are no validated decision rules to help clinicians evaluate paediatric wrist trauma. This study aimed to identify which clinical features are diagnostically useful in deciding the need for a wrist radiograph, and then to develop a clinical decision rule.

Methods:

This prospective cohort study was carried out in the ED of Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Eligible patients were recruited if presenting within 72 hours following blunt wrist trauma. A standardised data collection form was completed for all patients. The outcome measure was the presence or absence of a fracture. Univariate analysis was performed with the χ2 test. Associated variables (p<0.2) were entered into a multivariate model. Classification and regression tree (CART) analysis was used to derive the clinical decision rule.

Results:

In total, 227 patients were recruited and 106 children were diagnosed with fractures (47%). Of 10 clinical features analysed, six were found by univariate analysis to be associated with a fracture. CART analysis identified the presence of radial tenderness, focal swelling, or an abnormal supination/pronation as the best discriminatory features. Cross fold validation of this decision rule had a sensitivity of 99.1% (95% confidence interval 94.8% to 100%) and a specificity of 24.0% (17.2% to 32.3%). The radiography rate would be 87%.

Conclusions:

Radial tenderness, focal swelling, and abnormal supination/pronation are associated with wrist fractures in children. The clinical decision rule derived from these features had a high sensitivity, but low specificity, and would not substantially alter our current radiography rate. The potential for a clinical decision rule for paediatric wrist trauma appears limited.

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