Diagnosis and Treatment of Children with a Radiological Fat Pad Sign without Visible Elbow Fracture Vary Widely: An International Online Survey and Development of an Objective Definition

Maximiliaan A. Poppelaars*, Denise Eygendaal, Bertram The, Iris van Oost, Christiaan J.A. van Bergen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Children often present at the emergency department with a suspected elbow fracture. Sometimes, the only radiological finding is a ‘fat pad sign’ (FPS) as a result of hydrops or haemarthros. This sign could either be the result of a fracture, or be due to an intra-articular haematoma without a concomitant fracture. There are no uniform treatment guidelines for this common population. The aims of this study were (1) to obtain insight into FPS definition, diagnosis, and treatment amongst international colleagues, and (2) to identify a uniform definition based on radiographic measurements with optimal cut-off points via a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve. An online international survey was set up to assess the diagnostic and treatment strategies, criteria, and definitions of the FPS, the probability of an occult fracture, and the presence of an anterior and/or posterior FPS on 20 radiographs. Additionally, the research team performed radiographic measurements to identify cut-off values for a positive FPS, as well as test–retest reliability and inter-rater reliability via intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC). A total of 133 (paediatric) orthopaedic surgeons completed the survey. Definitions, further diagnostics, and treatments varied considerably amongst respondents. Angle measurements of the fat pad as related to the humeral axis line showed the highest reliability (test– retest ICC, 0.95 (95% CI 0.88–0.98); inter-rater ICC, 0.95 (95% CI 0.91–0.98)). A cut-off angle of 16 was defined a positive anterior FPS (sensitivity, 1.00; specificity, 0.87; accuracy, 99%), based on the respondents’ assessment of the radiographs in combination with the research team’s measurements. Any visible posterior fat pad was defined as a positive posterior FPS. This study provides insight into the current diagnosis and treatment of children with a radiological fat pad sign of the elbow. A clear, objective definition of a positive anterior FPS was identified as a ≥16 angle with respect to the anterior humeral line.

Original languageEnglish
Article number950
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalChildren
Volume9
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2022

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© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

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