• Variability in the Interpretation of Elbow Fractures in Children

      Kraynov, Liliya; The University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix; Zebulon, Timothy; Bulloch, Blake (The University of Arizona., 2016-03-25)
      Background and Significance The first physician to encounter a child with an elbow fracture is usually the emergency medicine (EM) physician. Many hospitals may not have access to immediate orthopedic consultation or “real-time” radiology reads, therefore, EM physicians have a great responsibility for an accurate diagnosis. Unfortunately, many EM physicians have little training in pediatric orthopedic injuries. The elbow's anatomy and radiographic features of the growing elbow increase the difficulty in determining an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. Inaccurate interpretation of elbow fractures in children may lead to unnecessary or improper medical decisions. Accurate interpretation is especially important in rural settings where patients may need transportation to facilities with higher levels of care. Research Question This study aims to survey EM physicians and determine if certain elbow fractures are diagnosed inaccurately more frequently and if some physician characteristics share a relationship with the accuracy of diagnosis of pediatric fractures. The characteristics include area of specialization, annual ED volume, years of experience post residency training, and working in an academic versus non-academic department. Different types of fractures, including type 1 supracondylar, type 2 supracondylar, type 3 supracondylar, medial epicondyle, lateral epicondyle, and olecranon along with uninjured elbows were evaluated to determine if a particular type was misdiagnosed more frequently. Methods A 16-question multiple-choice paper survey was distributed to physicians working in academic and non-academic centers within adult or pediatric emergency departments. Questions included radiographs and asked the physician to determine which fracture existed, if any.Results Lateral epicondyle fractures were the most likely fractures to be misdiagnosed (22.12%), while type 3 supracondylar fractures were the most likely to be accurately diagnosed (95.5%). There was no significant difference in accuracy of diagnosis based on physicians working either in an academic department, non-academic department, or both. Those physicians who were board certified or board eligible in two or more specialties had a higher mean percent correct, as well as those who worked in pediatric emergency medicine. Conclusions While this study served to start clarifying the most frequently misdiagnosed pediatric fractures and whether physicians with particular characteristics were more likely to diagnose fractures accurately, further steady is necessary to draw a definitive conclusion. This study does shed light on which pediatric elbow fractures physicians misdiagnose more frequently. It is important for all emergency medicine physicians to keep in mind the types of fractures that are most commonly misdiagnosed as it can affect medical decision-making. This is an area where additional education about elbow fractures in the developing pediatric elbow may be needed.