A new "virtual" patient pathway for the management of radial head and neck fractures

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2014 Mar;23(3):297-301. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2013.11.006.


Background: Minimally displaced radial head and neck fractures are common and the outcome with conservative treatment is generally excellent. A new protocol was introduced to manage patients with these suspected fractures at a major urban hospital. Simple, undisplaced fractures without other associated injuries or instability were discharged with structured advice but no further face-to-face review. Patients with more complex injuries were reviewed at a "virtual clinic." The aim of this study was to examine the outcome of this process in terms of patient flow, satisfaction, reattendance, and reintervention.

Methods: The 202 eligible patients, who presented during a 1-year period from October 2011 to October 2012, were identified retrospectively from a prospectively collected administrative database. Mason type III and IV fractures were excluded. A questionnaire was administered by mail or phone call to assess satisfaction with the process, information received, and function.

Results: Twenty (10%) patients required face-to-face review in a clinic, whereas 182 (90%) were managed with direct discharge; 155 patients responded to the survey (77%). The overall satisfaction rate was 96% in the suspected fracture group and 87% in the definite fracture group (P = .08). Satisfaction with the information provided was 95%. Two (1%) required late surgical intervention.

Conclusion: In this study, patients with suspected Mason I or II fractures were managed with limited face-to-face follow-up with high satisfaction rates. The reintervention rate was extremely low. This process has significant benefits to patients, who have fewer hospital visits, and to orthopaedic departments, which have more time to devote to complex cases.

Keywords: Radial head; conservative; cost savings; face-to-face review; fractures; radial neck; satisfaction; virtual clinic.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Critical Pathways*
  • Elbow / diagnostic imaging
  • Elbow / injuries
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiography
  • Radius Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Radius Fractures / physiopathology
  • Radius Fractures / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy / methods*