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Ultrasound as Good as X-Ray at Diagnosing Arm Fractures in Children

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 06 Jun 2023
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Image: Ultrasound can be used instead of X-rays to detect arm fractures in children (Photo courtesy of Freepik)
Image: Ultrasound can be used instead of X-rays to detect arm fractures in children (Photo courtesy of Freepik)

Previous studies have indicated that distal forearm fractures (broken bones in the forearm near the wrist) are among the most frequent injuries in children seen by emergency room staff. It has also been found that many parents are worried about their children being exposed to the high energy, short-wavelength electromagnetic radiation produced by X-ray machines, especially in the case of accident-prone children. In a new study, a research team exploring the potential use of standard ultrasound machines as an alternative to X-ray machines for diagnosing these fractures found that ultrasound equipment can be a reliable diagnostic tool for children with suspected distal forearm fractures.

In a study funded by the Emergency Medicine Foundation (Irving, TX, USA), a team of doctors, nurses, and medical researchers affiliated with various Australian institutions investigated the effectiveness of ultrasound devices in diagnosing arm fractures in children. The researchers closely monitored the treatment and outcomes for 270 children, aged five to 15, presenting with distal forearm pain at an emergency room. These children were randomly divided into two groups. The first group underwent ultrasound examinations. If the test was negative, the child was discharged with care instructions. If positive, it was confirmed with an X-ray before initiating treatment. The other group was diagnosed solely using X-ray machines and treated accordingly. Follow-ups were carried out at one, four, and eight weeks post-diagnosis to monitor the healing process of their injuries.

The study revealed there was no difference in the outcomes between the two groups. Since ultrasound tests can be conducted instantly, it can help decongest emergency rooms. The team noted that ultrasound testing is considerably cheaper than X-ray testing and does not require trained staff. The researchers also pointed that the advancement of ultrasound technology now allows commercial devices to be connected to smartphones for personal use. Based on these findings, the researchers foresee ultrasound becoming an increasingly prominent tool for fracture diagnosis, particularly in remote areas.

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