It is a common practice among orthopaedic surgeons to make radiographs at the first outpatient postoperative visit after surgical repair of acute fractures. There is not much literature that investigates the benefits and necessity of such a practice. We hypothesized that the practice of routine postoperative radiographs is unnecessary and increases cost to the patients and the health-care system, increases radiation exposure, and provides no change in patient management.Methods:
A retrospective review of patients sustaining acute fractures requiring operative fixation was done with the goal of determining how often a radiograph made at the first postoperative visit in the surgeon’s office resulted in a change in patient management.Results:
Fifteen (7.5%) of 200 fractures in 171 patients had a clinical indication for a radiograph because of an abnormal physical examination finding or history of additional trauma. Three (1.5%) of these fractures had a deviation from standard postoperative care; this deviation was a change in postoperative care on the basis of the patient history and physical examination rather than radiographs. One fracture (0.5%) had a radiographic change from the immediate postoperative radiograph to the clinic radiograph, yet did not have a change in treatment. The estimated average radiation exposure per radiograph was 0.164 mSv, and the average charge to the patient per radiograph was $335.13.Conclusions:
The majority of radiographs made at the first postoperative visit in the surgeon’s office after acute fracture fixation did not result in a change in patient management and added substantial cost to the health-care system.Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.