Assessment of interpretation of paediatric skeletal radiographs in the emergency room

Clin Radiol. 2019 Feb;74(2):150-153. doi: 10.1016/j.crad.2018.06.024. Epub 2018 Dec 1.


Aim: To assess the performance of paediatric skeletal radiography interpretation in the emergency department.

Materials and methods: In a large paediatric referral centre, data from trauma patients with initially misdiagnosed skeletal radiography was collected from October 2014 to June 2015. Data analysis focused on demographic data, region of the injury and clinical consequences as well as outcome of treatment.

Results: In 125 of 2,316 patients aged from 1-17 years an initial misdiagnosis was documented (5.4%). Misdiagnosis was detected and corrected the next day in a routine review attended by an experienced paediatric radiologist. False-negative interpretation (missed fracture) was found in 62 and false-positive (overdiagnosis) interpretation in 63 patients. The highest error rate was found in elbow radiography (12%) followed by wrist (8%), fingers (4.5%), metacarpus (4.2%), and toes (3.5%). The most frequently missed fracture was supracondylar elbow fracture (n=12). In case of initially missed fractures treatment was adjusted delayed the next day. In none of these patients, were repositioning or open surgical procedures necessary. No misdiagnosis resulted in additional morbidity.

Conclusion: Misinterpretation of paediatric skeletal radiography by paediatric emergency physicians occurred frequently. The majority of diagnostic errors occurred in a few regions. None of these misdiagnoses negatively affected patients' health. A routine review by an experienced paediatric radiologist is mandatory, but may suffice the next day.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnostic Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Radiography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiologists / statistics & numerical data*