Radiographs late in the follow up of uncomplicated distal radius fractures: are they worth it? Clinical outcome and financial implications

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Nicholas Eastley *
Randeep Aujla
Zeeshan Khan
(*) Corresponding Author:
Nicholas Eastley |


Fractures of the distal radius are common. Displacement can quickly lead to secondary osteoarthritis. Early follow up radiographs are subsequently paramount to facilitate for early attempts at reduction. Developing callus eventually makes this impractical. In the absence of complications we propose that radiographs may become obsolete at the later stages of follow up. We investigate whether clinical deformity, range of wrist movement and grip strength are independent of radiographs taken later than 2 weeks into the follow up of uncomplicated cases. Local cases between May 2009 and December 2011 were reviewed. Devised criteria regulated case selection. Data was collected from radiological software and occupational therapy clinical notes. Fractures were placed in short or term follow up groups dependant on whether they were imaged later than 2 weeks into follow up. T-tests compared our outcomes measures between these groups. 138 cases were included; 77 short term; 61 long term. No cases reported visible clinical deformity. There were no significant differences between grip strength or range of wrist movement for the short and long term groups. No cases required intervention for late displacement. Although complications may justify delayed imaging, our results suggest radiographs late in the follow up of uncomplicated distal radius fractures have no impact on our outcome measures. Further studies are required to confirm this. Financial regulation means any potential benefits from the removal of these unnecessary radiographs should be recognised. Established radiological follow up regimes need to be devised.

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