Abstract

Neurological examination in children presenting with upper limb fractures is often poorly performed. We aimed to assess the quality of documented neurological examination in children presenting with upper limb fractures and whether this could be improved following introduction of a simple guideline for paediatric neurological assessment.

We reviewed the clinical notes of all children presenting to the emergency department with upper limb fractures over a three month period. Documentation of initial neurological assessment and clinical suspicion of any nerve injury were noted. Subsequently, we introduced a guideline for paediatric upper limb neurological examination (‘Rock, Paper, Scissors, OK’) to our own hospital and performed a further 3 month clinical review to detect any resulting change in practice.

In the initial study period, 121 patients presented with upper limb fractures. 10 children (8%) had a nerve injury. Neurological examination was documented in 107 (88%) of patients, however, none of the nerve injuries were detected on initial assessment. In patients with nerve injuries, 5 (50%) were documented as being ‘neurovascularly intact’ and 2 (20%) had no documented examination.

Following introduction of the guideline, 97 patients presented with upper limb fractures of which 8 children (8%) had a nerve injury. Documentation of neurological examination increased to 98% for patients presenting directly to our own hospital (p=0.02). Within this cohort all nerve injuries with objective motor or sensory deficits were detected on initial examination.

Introduction of a simple guideline for neurological examination in children with upper limb fractures can significantly improve the quality of documented neurological assessment and detection of nerve injuries.