Hong Kong Journal of Emergency Medicine

Volume 10 Number 4, October 2003

A retrospective review of patients with radiological missed fractures in an emergency department in Hong Kong

VCH Ng and FL Lau

Aim: To review the clinical spectrum and outcome of radiological missed fractures in the Accident and Emergency Department of United Christian Hospital (UCH) in 2002. Method: In UCH, radiologists report all X-Rays taken in the Accident and Emergency Department (AED) within 48 hours. The study period was from 1st January 2002 to 31st December 2002. AED notes, relevant clinical records and all X-rays of patients with suspected missed fractures as reported by radiologists were reviewed for information on clinical features, treatments and outcomes. Results: A total of 286 cases of missed fractures were found. Fourteen (4.9%) involved the skull and maxillofacial region, 83 (29.0%) involved the chest region, 53 (18.5%) involved the spinal region, 72 (25.2%) involved the upper limbs and 64 (22.4%) involved the lower limbs. Of these 286 cases, 137 (47.9%) were followed up in AED, 90 (31.5%) were referred to specialist clinics for further management, 26 (9.1%) required admission to hospital for further assessment and treatment, and 33 (11.5%) defaulted follow up. Furthermore, 87 (30.4%) of these 286 missed fractures required a change in management plan: 3 missed fractures required operative intervention (internal fixation) and 84 missed fractures required some form of external immobilisation. This group of patient did not lodge any complaint or claim. Conclusion: A&E doctors missed quite a number of fractures that might result in significant morbidity. However, a reporting system by radiologists within 48 hours from discharge can pick up all these missed fractures, and may prevent complaints and litigations. (Hong Kong j.emerg.med. 2003;10:215-222)

Keywords : Diagnostic errors, fractures, reporting, X-rays

Back to Previous Page