Use of point-of-care ultrasound in long bone fractures: a systematic review and meta-analysis

CJEM. 2017 Mar;19(2):131-142. doi: 10.1017/cem.2016.397. Epub 2016 Dec 5.


Objectives: Long bone fractures (LBFs) are among the most frequent traumatic injuries seen in emergency departments. Reduction and immobilization is the most common form of treatment for displaced fractures. Point-of-care ultrasound (PoCUS) is a promising technique for diagnosing LBFs and assessing the success of reduction attempts. This article offers a comprehensive review of the use of PoCUS for the diagnosis and reduction of LBFs. Data source MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched through July 19, 2015. Study selection We included prospective studies that assessed test characteristics of PoCUS in 1) the diagnosis or 2) the reduction of LBFs. The methodological quality of the included studies was evaluated using the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (QUADAS-2) tool. Data extraction Thirty studies met inclusion criteria (n=3,506; overall fracture rate 48.0%). Test characteristics of PoCUS for the diagnosis of LBFs were as follows: sensitivity 64.7%-100%, specificity 79.2%-100%, positive likelihood ratio (LR) 3.11-infinity, and negative LR zero-0.45. Sensitivity and specificity for the adequate reduction of LBFs with PoCUS were 94%-100% and 56%-100%, respectively. PoCUS diagnosis of pediatric forearm fractures in 10 studies showed a pooled sensitivity of 93.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], 87.2%-96.4%) and specificity of 92.9% (95% CI, 86.6%-96.4%), and PoCUS diagnosis of adult ankle fractures in four studies showed a pooled sensitivity of 89.5% (95% CI, 77.0%-95.6%) and specificity of 94.2% (95% CI, 86.1%-97.7%).

Conclusion: PoCUS demonstrates good diagnostic accuracy in all LBFs studied, especially in pooled results of diagnosis of pediatric forearm and adult ankle fractures. PoCUS is an appropriate adjunct to plain radiographs for LBFs.

Keywords: bone; fractures; point-of-care systems; systematic review; ultrasonography.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography / methods*