Post-splinting x-rays of nondisplaced hand, wrist, ankle, and foot fractures are unnecessary
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BACKGROUND: Acute nondisplaced fractures (NDFs) are common in the emergency department (ED), and providers often obtain postsplinting x-rays to identify displacement that potentially occurs during the splinting process. Our objectives are to (1) determine how often x-rays are obtained after splinting of NDFs, (2) identify if postsplinting x-rays change treatment management in the ED, and (3) identify if there are medical complications at follow-up. METHODS: A retrospective chart review of ED patients who were discharged with hand, wrist, ankle, or foot fractures was conducted to determine patients with definite NDFs that were verified by a radiologist, underwent splinting, and either had postsplint x-rays or not. Bone displacement during the splinting procedure was determined by the postsplint x-rays in the ED. Internal movement of bones or management change was also determined for patients who did not undergo postsplint x-rays in the ED but had obtained an x-ray at their follow-up visit (in-network providers only). RESULTS: Our results demonstrate that no patients required further manipulation or operative management due to the splinting that occurred in the ED. These results take into account both patients who had postsplint x-rays conducted in the ED (27 patients) and those who received x-rays in follow-up consults (179 patients). There was minimal incidence of interval movement in the latter group (14 patients), none of which resulted in management change. CONCLUSION: These data conclude that postsplinting x-rays of NDFs are unnecessary. Removal of this procedure from routine practice will help decrease patient and hospital cost, time, and radiation exposure.
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