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Nonarticular Base and Shaft Fractures of Children’s Fingers: Are Follow-up X-rays Needed? Retrospective Study of Conservatively Treated Proximal and Middle Phalangeal Fractures

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Background:

Phalangeal fractures of the hand are common in children, and most extra-articular fractures can be treated with nonoperative management. Minimally or nondisplaced fractures may simply be immobilized, whereas displaced fractures need closed reduction before immobilization. Although few of these fractures displace secondarily, most schemes currently recommend follow-up x-rays after initial diagnosis. Our primary objective was to identify subgroups of finger fractures that are stable, thus requiring no radiographic monitoring.

Methods:

This study was designed as a retrospective, single-center analysis of conservatively treated pediatric finger fractures of the proximal and middle phalanges. We included patients up to 16 years with base or shaft fractures of the index to little fingers who underwent nonoperative treatment and standardized follow-up controls in our pediatric hand surgery outpatients’ clinic between 2010 and 2016. Fracture angular deformity in x-rays taken at diagnosis and after 1 and 3 weeks were reassessed blinded, and a statistical analysis was conducted to identify fracture types that are prone to secondary angular deformity.

Results:

A total of 478 patients were eligible; 113 were lost due to missing final radiographic controls. Overall, 365 patients were analyzed; they had a mean age of 9.7 years (range, 1 to 16), and 33.4% required a primary closed reduction. A secondary angular deformity occurred in 2.2% (8/365) of all finger fractures. No secondary angulation occurred in primary minimally and nondisplaced fractures, but 6.6% (8/122) of the reduced fractures showed a subsequent loss of reduction.

Conclusions:

Minimally angulated (<10 degrees) and nondisplaced metaphyseal and diaphyseal fractures of proximal and middle phalanges of the index to little fingers are stable and therefore do not need radiographic follow-ups. However, initially angulated fractures requiring closed reduction bear a risk of subsequent loss of reduction.

Level of Evidence:

Level III—retrospective study.
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Keywords: finger fractures; follow-up x-rays; phalangeal fractures

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Pediatric Hand Surgery, Children’s Research Center 2: Children’s Research Center, Pediatric Emergency Department, University Children’s Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Publication date: October 1, 2019

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