BACKGROUND: The added value of routine radiography in the follow-up of extremity fractures is unclear. The aim of this systematic review was to create an overview of radiography use in extremity fracture care and the consequences of these radiographs for the treatment of patients with these fractures.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Studies were included if they reported on the use of radiography in the follow-up of extremity fractures and on its influence on treatment strategy, clinical outcome, or complications. A comprehensive search of electronic databases (i.e., PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane) was performed to identify relevant studies. Methodological quality was assessed with the Newcastle-Ottawa scale for cohort studies. Level of evidence was assessed using GRADE. The search, quality appraisal, and data extraction were performed independently by two researchers.
RESULTS: Eleven studies were included. All studies were retrospective cohorts. Of these, only two used a comparative design. Two of the included studies described fractures of both the upper and lower extremities, four studies concerned fractures of the lower extremity only, and five studies focused on fractures of the upper extremity. Pooling of data was not performed because of clinical heterogeneity. Eight studies reported on a change in treatment strategy related to radiography. Percentages ranged from 0 to 2.6%. The overall results indicated that radiographs in the follow-up of extremity fractures seldom alter treatment strategy, that the vast majority of follow-up radiographs are obtained without a clinical indication and that detection of a complication on a radiograph, in the absence of clinical symptoms, is unlikely. All included studies were regarded of a 'very low' level using GRADE.
CONCLUSIONS: Based on current literature, the added value of routine radiography in the follow-up of extremity fractures seems limited. Results, however, should be interpreted with care, considering that available evidence is of a low level.
- Added value
- Systematic review