The Feasibility Of Utilizing Malunion Criteria To Limit Radiographs After Spica Casting For Pediatric Femur Fractures

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics


Background: There are no existing guidelines regarding the timing or frequency of postoperative radiographs following spica casting for pediatric femur fractures. The purpose of this study was to evaluate established femoral malunion criteria as a potential screening tool to limit postoperative radiographs by identifying patients at risk for unacceptable alignment in the early treatment period. Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted for pediatric femoral shaft fractures presenting to a tertiary pediatric referral hospital from 2012 to 2017. Pediatric femur malunion criteria were applied to radiographs at initial presentation, first follow-up visit, and final follow-up visit. The primary outcome was a change in management based on radiographic findings in the early postoperative period. Secondary outcomes included radiographic measures, number of follow-up visits, and complications. Results: Of 449 consecutive pediatric femur fractures treated at our center, 149 patients aged 1 to 4 years (mean age: 2.5±1.6 y) met inclusion criteria. At initial presentation, 36.9% (55/149) of patients met malunion criteria. Only 4.0% (6/149) of patients had a change in management following initial closed reduction and spica cast application due to radiographic findings at subsequent follow-up. Of these patients, 67% (4/6) were identified on preoperative imaging, and 83.3% (5/6) were identified by their first clinic appointment. Four of the 149 patients were converted to definitive surgical fixation, and 2 patients required cast wedging due to either unacceptable fracture shortening or coronal/sagittal angulation. Conclusions: Routine early postoperative radiographs may not be necessary for all pediatric femur fractures managed with closed reduction and spica casting. The value of this study is that it is the first to demonstrate the feasibility of limiting postoperative radiographs using a preoperative screening tool. However, the established femoral malunion criteria utilized in this study were limited in their predictive value, and further work is necessary to improve the sensitivity and specificity before widespread clinical application. Level of Evidence: Level IV.

First Page


Last Page


PubMed ID