Use of ultrasound to assess acute fracture reduction in emergency care settings


  • John G. McManus, MD, MCR
  • Melinda J. Morton, MD, MPH
  • Chad S. Crystal, MD
  • Todd J. McArthur, MD
  • Jeremy S. Helphenstine, DO
  • David A. Masneri, DO
  • Scott E. Young, DO
  • Michael A. Miller, MD



ultrasound, fracture, postreduction, orthopedic, realignment, disaster.


Objective: There is a need to develop tools for the rapid diagnosis and treatment of fractures and intraosseous pathology in remote and austere environments. Several emergency and orthopedic studies have demonstrated ultrasound to be a reliable tool in diagnosing these conditions in both adult and pediatric patients. The purpose of this pilot study is to assess the ability of the ultrasound to assess in “real-time” the success of fracture reduction in adult patients in the emergency department (ED), in comparison with the accepted standard, plain film radiography, for the purposes of future application in austere environments.
Design: Case series.
Setting: Emergency department at an academic medical center.
Patients/Participants: Convenience sample of five patients presenting to an ED with clinical evidence of fractures (three radial, one phalangeal, and one metacarpal).
Interventions: A Sonosite Titan portable ultrasound system with L38/10-5: 38-mm broadband linear array transducer was used to assess prereduction and postreduction angulations and alignment. Alignment was reconfirmed with use of fluoroscopy and plain radiography.
Results: The ultrasound confirmed proper reduction and realignment in all five cases, from an average prereduction angle of alignment of 37.4 degrees to an average postreduction angle of 4.4 degrees. The use of the ultrasound resulted in adequate visualization of the reduction in all cases. Regional anesthesia or sedation and limited pressure with the probe resulted in no verbalization of pain by any of the subjects.
Conclusions: In this pilot study, emergency physicians demonstrated the use of ultrasound in place of traditional radiography to either confirm adequate reduction or assess the need for further manipulation. Our pilot study suggests that ultrasound has a possible future role in fracture reduction management in both the ED as well as “austere” prehospital locations.

Author Biographies

John G. McManus, MD, MCR

US Army Institute of Surgical Research, San Antonio, Texas.

Melinda J. Morton, MD, MPH

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland.

Chad S. Crystal, MD

Darnall Army Community Hospital, Fort Hood, Texas.

Todd J. McArthur, MD

Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas.

Jeremy S. Helphenstine, DO

Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas.

David A. Masneri, DO

Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas.

Scott E. Young, DO

Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas.

Michael A. Miller, MD

Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas.


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How to Cite

McManus, MD, MCR, J. G., M. J. Morton, MD, MPH, C. S. Crystal, MD, T. J. McArthur, MD, J. S. Helphenstine, DO, D. A. Masneri, DO, S. E. Young, DO, and M. A. Miller, MD. “Use of Ultrasound to Assess Acute Fracture Reduction in Emergency Care Settings”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 3, no. 4, July 2008, pp. 241-7, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2008.0030.




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