Among the various elbow injuries in children that initially have normal radiographs, a certain number of occult fractures are only diagnosed correctly after the fact, during a follow-up visit.
This study evaluated the diagnostic contribution of ultrasonography in the treatment of acute elbow injuries in children and the strategic and economic impact of using this tool alongside radiography.
Materials and methods
During this prospective study performed between January 1 and April 1 2014, elbow ultrasonography was performed within 6 days in all children under 15 years of age with a suspected occult fracture. The ultrasonography exam looked for lipohemarthrosis, the posterior fat pad sign and cortical disruption. If no fracture was visible on ultrasonography, a removable splint was given to the patient to relieve pain, and no radiological or clinical follow-up was scheduled. The patients were contacted again at least 15 days later to determine whether an undetected fracture was present. Lastly, we evaluated the cost of treatment with and without ultrasonography in the cases where no fracture was diagnosed.
In 13 cases, ultrasonography revealed lipohemarthrosis and a fat pat sign, with cortical disruption also present in 11 of these cases. In two cases, the diagnosis was made based solely on the presence of lipohemarthrosis and a fat pat sign. There were seven lateral condyle fractures, two medial epicondyle fractures and two supracondylar fractures. Among the 21 patients with normal ultrasonography, no fracture was diagnosed later on. In patients without a fracture, using ultrasonography resulted in a cost savings of €29.10 per patient versus not using it.
In our study, ultrasonography is a sensitive examination for the diagnosis of occult elbow fractures in children. When the radiography and ultrasonography are both normal, the possibility of fracture can be rule out definitively, which reduces the need for immobilization, follow-up and treatment costs. The findings of this preliminary study should be validated with a larger prospective study.Le texte complet de cet article est disponible en PDF.
Keywords : Ultrasonography, Occult fracture, Elbow injury, Lipohemarthrosis, Fat pad sign