Computed tomography for occult fractures of the proximal femur, pelvis, and sacrum in clinical practice: single institution, dual-site experience

Emerg Radiol. 2018 Jun;25(3):265-273. doi: 10.1007/s10140-018-1580-4. Epub 2018 Jan 11.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic performance of CT for assessment of occult fractures of the proximal femur, pelvis, and sacrum.

Materials and methods: A retrospective review was performed on patients who received a CT of the hip or pelvis for suspected occult fracture after negative or equivocal radiographs performed within 24 h. The official radiology report was utilized for the determination of CT findings and calculation of sensitivity and specificity. Surgical reports, MRI reports, and clinical follow-up were used as the standard of reference. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated with 95% confidence intervals.

Results: Seventy-four patients received CT of the hip or pelvis for clinical concern for occult fracture after negative or equivocal radiographs. By the reference standard, a total of 40 fractures were present in 25/74 (33.8%) patients, including 35 conservatively treated fractures of the greater trochanter, pelvis, and sacrum, and 5 operatively treated proximal femoral fractures. A total of 14/74 (18.9%) of patients had an MRI within 1 day of CT. MRI identified an operatively treated femoral neck fracture not seen on CT and an operatively treated intertrochanteric fracture, which CT described as a greater trochanteric fracture. There were two false negative conservatively treated pelvic fractures not seen on CT but diagnosed on MRI. On a per-patient basis, CT had an overall sensitivity of 88% (22/25; 95% confidence intervals 69-97%), specificity of 98% (48/49; 95% confidence intervals 89-100%), and negative predictive value of 94%. For the five operative proximal femoral fractures, the sensitivity of CT was 60% (3/5; 95% confidence intervals 15-95%), specificity was 99% (68/69; 95% confidence intervals 92-100%), and negative predictive value was 97%.

Conclusions: In the clinical setting of suspected occult fracture, the sensitivity of clinical CT reports for detection of any type of fracture of the proximal femur, pelvis, or sacrum was 88%. For the small number of operatively treated proximal femoral fractures seen in the study, sensitivity of CT was 60% (3/5) and negative predictive value was 97%, although the relatively few patients needing fixation precludes statistical analysis.

Keywords: Computed tomography; Hip fracture; Occult fracture; Pelvic fracture; Sacral fracture.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Femoral Fractures / diagnostic imaging*
  • Fractures, Closed / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hip Fractures / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pelvic Bones / injuries*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sacrum / injuries*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*