Recently published studies call into question the clinical utility of postoperative radiographs in the management of pediatric supracondylar humerus (SCH) fractures. This topic has been addressed as part of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Appropriate Use Criteria, although recommendations regarding serial radiographs were not included as part of the discussion. The purpose of this systematic review is to summarize the recent literature regarding the utility of postoperative radiographs as part of the management of SCH fractures.
A systematic review of the literature published between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2017 was conducted using PubMed/MEDLINE and SCOPUS databases to identify studies relevant to postoperative management of SCH. Eight studies met the inclusion criteria, from which data pooled estimates and an analysis of heterogeneity were calculated.
The pooled estimate of changes in fracture management on the basis of postoperative radiographs was 1% (0.98±0.33). Significant interstudy heterogeneity was observed with an I2 test statistic of 76%. Changes in fracture management included prolonged immobilization following pin removal and return to the operating room.
There is a paucity of articles focusing on the utility or appropriate use of postoperative radiographs in changing management of SCH fractures, one of the most common upper extremity fractures in children. There is a very low rate of change in management on the basis of imaging, and frequently authors commented that the management change could have been prompted without routine serial radiographs. The cumulate findings of these studies suggest routine postoperative radiographs after SCH fractures are infrequently associated with changes in management. Practitioners should consider postoperative protocols with the intention of identifying early postoperative alignment loss or when the complication is suspected to prevent excessive routine radiography in the management of pediatric SCH fractures.
Level of Evidence:
Level III—systematic review of level III studies.