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Is There Value in Radiology Reads for Pediatric Supracondylar Fractures in the Outpatient Clinic?

Du, Jerry Y., MD*,†,‡; Tamer, Pierre, BS*,†,‡; Wang, Joanne H., MD*,†,‡; Liu, Raymond W., MD*,†,‡

doi: 10.1097/BPO.0000000000001356
Original Article: PDF Only

Background: Increased health care costs have driven assessment of value of common practices. The Joint Commission mandates the dual interpretation of musculoskeletal radiographs by radiologists and orthopedic surgeons in hospital-based clinic settings. However, the value of this practice has come under question. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether radiologist interpretations change orthopedists’ management during follow-up of pediatric supracondylar humerus fractures.

Methods: A retrospective review was performed of pediatric elbow fractures at a single institution from January 2012 to December 2015. Patients with supracondylar humerus fractures and at least one clinic follow-up were included. For each radiograph, the orthopedic surgeon and radiologist interpretations were reviewed and a determination was made as to whether the radiologist interpretation affected management of the patient. In films with disagreement of displacement, Baumann angle and posterior displacement based on Gartland classification with Wilkins and Leitch modifications were measured. Timing of final radiologist and orthopedic interpretations were also assessed. Finally, billing charges of radiologist interpretations were assessed.

Results: There were 441 pediatric supracondylar humerus fracture patients included in this study. All 441 patients had at least 1 clinic follow-up, 397 patients had at least 2 clinic follow-ups, and 123 patients had at least 3 clinic follow-ups, with a total of 716 elbow radiographs obtained. There were 17 cases (2.4%) where orthopedics and radiologist final interpretations disagreed regarding fracture displacement. In no cases did radiologist interpretations change orthopedic management. Radiographs that orthopedics interpreted as displaced were more likely to be posteriorly displaced (80.0% vs. 0.0%; P=0.002). However there was no difference in Baumann angle (P=0.125). Of the 716 films included, 28 radiologist interpretations were performed the day after the clinic visit (4%). Excluding these cases, there was an average of 57±3 minutes between radiograph acquisition and final interpretation. There were 352 cases where final orthopedic note filing time was documented, and 32% of these notes were finalized prior to the final radiologist interpretations. The total charges of radiologist interpretations was $18,772.

Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that dual-interpretation of radiographs obtained in the follow-up clinic setting does not add value in management of pediatric supracondylar humerus fractures.

Level of Evidence: Level IV—case series.

*Division of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery, Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital

School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University Hospitals, Cleveland, OH

No funds were received in support of this work.

R.W.L.: Division of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery, Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital: royalties paid to my institution, part of which are placed into a research fund that I control: other financial or material support. The remaining authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Jerry Y. Du, MD, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University, 11100 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106. E-mail:

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