Do toddler’s fractures of the tibia require evaluation and management by an orthopaedic surgeon routinely?

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Abstract

Objective

The majority of uncomplicated toddler fractures of the tibia (toddler’s fractures) do not need an orthopaedic surgeon’s intervention or follow-up. However, inexperienced emergency room physicians, general practitioners and orthopaedic trainees and surgeons understandably defer to a cautious approach of referral and subsequent frequent clinical and radiographic follow-up. An evidence-based pathway can help prevent this overtreatment, reduce unnecessary radiation exposure and decrease the financial burden on families and the healthcare system.

Patients and methods

A retrospective analysis of patients who presented for management of toddler’s fractures to The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) was performed.

Results

A total of 184 (113 boys, 72 girls) patients, of a mean age of 1.99 (range: 0.2–3.9) years, were included for review. The included patients had attended 2.00±1.0 clinic visits and had had 5.86±2.7 radiographs taken on average. No complications such as cast injuries, nonunion, refracture or subsequent deformity needing assessment or intervention were identified.

Conclusion

Toddler’s fractures do not require routine orthopaedic surgeon assessment, intervention or follow-up. If diagnosed and managed correctly at initial presentation, patients with toddler’s fractures may be discharged safely without the need for further clinician contact. We developed a toddler’s fracture clinical care pathway to reduce unnecessary orthopaedic surgeon referral and clinical and radiographic follow-up, thereby decreasing radiation exposure and costs to families and the healthcare system without risking patient outcomes.

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