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Diagnostic accuracy of ultrasonography for hand bony fractures in paediatric patients
  1. Elena Neri1,
  2. Egidio Barbi1,
  3. Ingrid Rabach1,
  4. Chiara Zanchi1,
  5. Stefania Norbedo1,
  6. Luca Ronfani1,
  7. Veronica Guastalla2,
  8. Alessandro Ventura3,
  9. Pierpaolo Guastalla1
  1. 1Institute for Maternal and Child Health—IRCCS “Burlo Garofolo”, Trieste, Italy
  2. 2University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy
  3. 3Institute for Maternal and Child Health—IRCCS “Burlo Garofolo”—Trieste and University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ingrid Rabach, Institute for Maternal and Child Health—IRCCS “Burlo Garofolo”, Via dell'Istria 65/1, Trieste 34137, Italy; ingridrabach{at}


Objective Hand fractures are common in childhood, and radiography is the standard diagnostic procedure. US has been used to evaluate bone injuries, mainly in adults for long-bone trauma; there are only a few studies about hand fractures in children. The purpose of this study was to evaluate and confirm the safety and applicability of the US diagnostic procedure in comparison to X-ray diagnosis.

Study design This cross-sectional study involved a convenience sample of young patients (between 2 and 17 years old) who were taken to the emergency department due to hand trauma. After clinical assessment, patients with a suspected hand fracture first underwent X-ray, and subsequently US examination by two different operators; a radiologist experienced in US and a trained emergency physician in “double-blind” fashion. US and radiographic findings were then compared, and sensitivity as well as specificity was calculated.

Results A total of 204 patients were enrolled in the study. Seventy-nine fractures of phalanges or metacarpals were detected by standard radiography. When US imaging was performed by an expert radiologist, 72 fractures were detected with sensitivity and a specificity of 91.1% and 97.6%, respectively. Sensitivity and specificity were found to be (respectively) 91.5% and 96.8% when US was performed by the ED physicians.

Conclusions US imaging showed excellent sensitivity and specificity results in the diagnosis of hand fractures in children. The study also showed a great agreement between the results of the US carried out by the senior radiologist and those carried out by the paediatric emergency physician, suggesting that US can be performed by an ED physician, allowing a rapid and accurate evaluation in ED and could become the first diagnostic approach whenever a hand fracture is suspected.

  • Accident & Emergency
  • Imaging
  • Paediatric Practice

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