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J Hand Surg Am. 2012 Aug;37(8):1684-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2012.05.010. Epub 2012 Jul 3.

Hand fractures in children: epidemiology and misdiagnosis in a tertiary referral hospital.

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Department of Hand and Reconstructive Microsurgery, National University Hospital, Singapore.



To determine the local epidemiology of pediatric hand fractures and the rate of misdiagnosis.


A retrospective study was performed on children aged 17 years and younger who were referred for actual or suspected metacarpal and phalangeal fractures. Medical records were reviewed for age at the time of injury, sex, fracture pattern, venue where the injury was sustained, injury mechanism, and diagnoses made by the referring doctor and hand surgeon. Differing diagnoses were considered misdiagnoses. The misdiagnosis rate was calculated as the percentage of misdiagnoses over the number of referrals.


Of 204 cases reviewed, emergency physicians referred 146 cases (72%), and primary health care physicians referred the rest. There were 193 cases of actual fractures in 181 patients and 16 cases of misdiagnosis. The fracture incidence peaked at 14 and 15 years. The median ages of children sustaining fractures of the distal phalanges, proximal phalanges, and metacarpals were 9, 12, and 15 years, respectively. The proximal phalanx was most commonly fractured (95 cases, 49%), as was the fifth ray (78 cases, 40%). Most fractures occurred at school (79 cases, 44%). Sports-related injury was the leading cause of fractures (70 cases, 39%). The misdiagnosis rate was 8% (16 of 204). The leading cause of misdiagnosis was misinterpretation of epiphyses (6 of 16), followed by missing multiple fractures (3 of 16).


The higher fracture incidence in teenagers is likely related to sports participation. Sports accounted for proximal fractures in older children, whereas young children sustained distal fractures through crushing injuries. Although the misdiagnosis rate seemed low, it might reflect that emergency physicians, who referred most of the cases, were adept at diagnosing fractures. To improve diagnostic accuracy, doctors should familiarize themselves with the location of epiphyses and look carefully for multiple fractures.


Economic and Decision Analysis IV.

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