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Are Plain X-Rays Necessary in the Diagnosis of De Quervain's Tenosynovitis?Funding None.
Background The routine use of plain radiography represents a significant expenditure and has been proven unnecessary in several orthopedic conditions. The utility of plain radiographs in the diagnosis of De Quervain's tenosynovitis (DeQ) is not clear.
Questions/Purpose This study evaluates whether plain radiographic findings routinely predict the need for surgery or alter treatment courses in the initial diagnosis of DeQ.
Patients and Methods A total of 200 patients who received wrist X-rays and had a diagnosis of DeQ were retrospectively selected at random. Their images were evaluated for relevant findings, including radial styloid abnormalities, arthritis, and tendon calcification. A chart review was performed to determine whether these X-rays altered the treatment courses.
Results Of the 200 patients, 141 (69.1%) cases had at least one positive radiographic finding. Carpometacarpal joint (CMC) arthritis was the most common finding, seen in 63 (30.9%) cases. Of all patients, 141 (69.1%) were treated with corticosteroid injection only, 54 (26.5%) with corticosteroid injection and ultimately surgery, and 9 (4.4%) with surgery alone. There were no significant differences in the rates of surgery with positive X-ray findings. There were no cases in which radiographic findings resulted in a change in management, per the report of the treating physician.
Conclusions Despite the high proportion of positive findings on X-ray, no radiographic findings altered the course of treatment in patients with isolated DeQ. Obtaining plain radiographs for isolated DeQ represents a significant cost and should be reserved for cases in which the results are preemptively deemed likely to influence the treatment course.
Level of Evidence This is a level IV study.
The investigation was performed at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA.
Received: 08 June 2020
Accepted: 06 August 2020
Article published online:
16 October 2020
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