Intraobserver and Interobserver Reliability and the Role of Fracture Morphology in Classifying Femoral Shaft Fractures in Young Children

*Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Campbell Clinic §Department of Pediatrics, University of Tennessee, Knoxville †Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, Memphis, TN ‡Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, TX.
Journal of pediatric orthopedics (Impact Factor: 1.47). 10/2013; 34(3). DOI: 10.1097/BPO.0000000000000095
Source: PubMed


Spiral fractures of long bones have long been cited as indications of non-accidental trauma (NAT) in children; however, fracture types are only loosely defined in the literature, and intraobserver and interobserver variability in defining femoral fracture patterns is rarely mentioned. We sought to determine reliability in classifying femoral fractures in young children using a standard series of radiographs shown to physicians with varied backgrounds and training and to determine if a quantitative approach based on objective measurements made on plain radiographs could improve definition of these fractures.
On 50 radiographs, the fracture ratio-fracture length divided by bone diameter-was determined and radiographs were reviewed by 14 observers, including pediatric orthopaedic surgeons, emergency room physicians, and musculoskeletal radiologists, who classified the fractures as transverse, oblique, or spiral. A second review of the images in a different order was carried out at least 10 days after the first.
Overall, intraobserver agreement was strong, whereas interobserver reliability was moderate. Experience level did not correlate with either result. Complete agreement among all observers occurred for only 5 fractures: 3 transverse and 2 spiral. An average fracture ratio near 1.0 appeared to be predictiveof a transverse fracture and a ratio of >3.0, a spiral fracture; ratios between these 2 values resulted in essentially random classification.
The ability to reproducibly classify femoral fractures in young children is highly variable among physicians of different specialties. These results support the belief that fracture morphology has little predictive value in NAT because of the wide variability in what observers classify as a spiral fracture of the femur. Caution should be used in the use of descriptive terms such as spiral, oblique, or transverse when classifying femoral fractures, as well as when evaluating children for possible NAT, because of the variability in classification.
Level III-diagnostic study.

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    ABSTRACT: Certain fracture configurations, especially spiral fractures, are often thought to be indicative of nonaccidental trauma in children. The purpose of this study was to determine whether femoral fracture morphology, as determined by an objective measurement (fracture ratio), was indicative of nonaccidental trauma in young children. Consecutive patients who were three years of age or younger and had a closed, isolated femoral shaft fracture treated at an urban pediatric level-I trauma center between 2005 and 2013 were identified. Anteroposterior and lateral fracture ratios (fracture length/bone diameter) were calculated for each patient by a fellowship-trained pediatric orthopaedic surgeon who was blinded to the patient's clinical history. The presence or absence of a Child Protective Services referral as well as institutional Child Assessment Program evaluations were reviewed. Nonaccidental trauma was deemed to be present, absent, or indeterminate by Child Protective Services or an on-site Child Assessment Program team. To further evaluate and quantify the likelihood of nonaccidental trauma, the criteria of the Modified Maltreatment Classification System were used. Of 122 patients identified, ninety-five met the inclusion criteria for this study. Of these ninety-five, fifty-one (54%) had either a Child Protective Services or a Child Assessment Program consultation because of suspected nonaccidental trauma. Thirteen (25%) were found to have nonaccidental trauma as determined by Child Protective Services or the Child Assessment Program team and seven (14%) had indeterminate Child Protective Services or Child Assessment Program investigations. All thirteen patients with nonaccidental trauma, as well as the seven patients with an indeterminate Child Protective Services or Child Assessment Program investigation, had positive Modified Maltreatment Classification System scores for physical abuse. Patients who had nonaccidental trauma had significantly decreased mean anteroposterior fracture ratios compared with those who had confirmed accidental trauma (p < 0.0001). The fracture ratio can be helpful to determine fracture morphology and can be used as part of the assessment of a child with suspected nonaccidental trauma. While not diagnostic, the presence of a transverse diaphyseal femoral fracture in a young child should raise the index of suspicion for nonaccidental trauma. Prognostic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence. Copyright © 2015 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated.
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