How to interpret skeletal radiographs in adult trauma
- By: Madhurima Chetan, Tom Turmezei
Musculoskeletal injuries, including fractures and dislocations, account for more than 60% of diagnoses in the emergency department in England.1 Interpreting a radiograph is a crucial part of diagnosis and management and a vital skill for junior doctors. It relies on good anatomical knowledge, an understanding of radiographic views, and a systematic approach. In this article we aim to enable you to develop these skills and boost your confidence.
For the patient with a fracture or dislocation, a good outcome depends on sound radiographic interpretation. A missed or delayed diagnosis increases long term morbidity and is the commonest reason for litigation.2 The importance of accurate and early radiographic interpretation is well illustrated by the relatively common neck of femur fracture (fig 1). Non-displaced fractures are stable and usually fixed by cannulated screw pinning, whereas displaced fractures are unstable and require pinning in younger patients and hemiarthroplasty in older patients. A missed