The current management of scaphoid fractures in the emergency department across an Australian metropolitan public health service: A retrospective cohort study

Margaret Ting-Kwei Chang, Maggie Price, James Furness, Kevin Kemp-Smith, Vini Simas, Rowan Pickering, Deborah Lenaghan

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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Scaphoid fractures are commonly present to emergency departments (EDs), challenging medical practitioners to achieve accurate diagnosis and management. This is because of the prevalence of radiographically occult scaphoid fractures and complications associated with missed diagnoses. Clinical Guidelines are limited for treatment of suspected scaphoid fractures, and heterogeneity in the literature further complicates management. This study aimed to explore the differences in management between practitioners in the ED and determine if immobilizing clinically suspected scaphoid fractures is supported by current evidence. This study also aimed to establish if there are predictors to assist in the diagnosis of a scaphoid fracture in the ED.


A retrospective cohort study analyzed clinical data from patient’s charts who attended the ED for a scaphoid fracture in 2019. Using retrospective patient chart audits and a Data Extraction Form, the clinical data regarding the assessment, treatment, diagnosis, and follow-up outcomes were collected. Descriptive analysis and multivariable logistic regression were performed to assess current management and find out predictors of a scaphoid fracture.

There was significance between practitioners performing physical assessments and providing treatment (P < .001). Physiotherapists performed assessment and education combined treatment more frequently than nurse practitioners and doctors. Thirty-four cases (11.7%) were negative for fracture in ED and positive in follow-up at the orthopedic clinic. There was an estimated loss of income of $327,433.60 (Australian dollar) for 221 patients who missed work due to overtreatment with immobilization. The strongest predictors for a confirmed scaphoid fracture were of male gender (odds ratio, 3.2; 95% confidence interval, 2.1–5.0; P < .001) and a positive x-ray in ED (odds ratio, 36.6; 95% confidence interval, 17.4–77.0; P < .001).

Management of scaphoid fractures across the Gold Coast Hospital Health Service ED followed commonly accepted practices involving x-ray and immobilization; however, this conservative approach to management is associated with increased health costs and low rates of conversion to a confirmed scaphoid fracture. Male gender was the only significant predictor associated with a scaphoid fracture.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere29659
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2022


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