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Diagnosis and Guided Reduction of Forearm Fractures in Children Using Bedside Ultrasound

Chen, Lei MD*; Kim, Yunie BS; Moore, Christopher L. MD, RDMS

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e318128f85d
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Background: Forearm fractures are common injuries in children. Displaced and angulated fractures usually require reduction. Ultrasound diagnosis and guided reduction offer several potential advantages: (1) the procedure does not involve ionizing radiation; (2) compared with fluoroscopy units, the newer ultrasound units are more portable; and (3) repeated studies can be obtained easily and quickly.

Objective: The primary objective was to investigate the accuracy of emergency department (ED) physician-performed ultrasound in the diagnosis and guided reduction of forearm fractures in children.

Methods: Children suspected of having forearm fractures were enrolled prospectively in an urban pediatric ED from June 2004 to November 2004. A bedside ultrasound of the forearm bones was performed by a pediatric emergency medicine physician. Ultrasound findings were compared with radiograph findings. Reductions were performed under ultrasound guidance. Postreduction radiographs were performed. Any need for further reduction was recorded.

Results: During the study period, 68 patients were enrolled. Radiographs revealed forearm fractures in 48 patients. Twenty-nine subjects had fractures of the radius alone; 17 had fractures of both the radius and the ulna, and 2 had fractures of the ulna alone. Ultrasound revealed the correct type and location of the fracture in 46 patients. The sensitivity for the detection of forearm fractures was 97% (95% confidence interval [CI], 89%-100%) using ultrasound. The specificity was 100% (95% CI, 83%-100%). Twenty-six subjects underwent reduction of their fractures in the ED. Two subjects required rereduction after the initial reduction. The initial success rate of ultrasound-guided reduction was 92% (95% CI, 75%-99%).

Conclusions: Bedside ultrasound performed by pediatric emergency medicine physicians is a reliable and convenient method of diagnosing forearm fractures in children. It is also useful in guiding the reduction of these fractures.

*Section of Emergency Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, †Yale University School of Medicine and Department of ‡Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Lei Chen, MD, Section of Emergency Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, 20 York St, WP143, New Haven, CT 06504. E-mail: Lei.chen@yale.edu.

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.