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Epidemiology Research International
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 837928, 7 pages
Research Article

Determining the Incidence of Adult Fractures: How Accurate Are Emergency Department Data?

The Orthopaedic Trauma Unit, Department of Orthopaedics, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Little France, Edinburgh EH16 4SU, UK

Received 2 April 2012; Revised 10 May 2012; Accepted 16 May 2012

Academic Editor: Huibert Burger

Copyright © 2012 Stuart A. Aitken et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Various research methods have been used to obtain skeletal fracture data and report the incidence of fractures. A large number of British studies have used data collected in emergency departments, and not data derived from orthopaedic units. We hypothesised that fracture data will differ depending upon the methodology employed to capture it. Two commonly used sources of fracture data at our institution were compared, (the Emergency Department (ED) database and the Orthopaedic Trauma Unit (OTU) database), using a cohort of adult patients from our defined population as the study sample. We performed univariate analyses to identify differences between groups with accurate and inaccurate ED fracture diagnoses. We then performed a binary logistic regression analysis to determine the best predictors of diagnostic accuracy. In one year, 7,449 patients were referred to the OTU. Three-quarters were referred with fractures. The overall false positive fracture referral rate was 25%. Several fracture subtypes were commonly overdiagnosed in the ED. Regression analysis showed that patient age, patient gender, and the seniority of the referring clinician were independently predictive of an accurate fracture diagnosis. We suggest that studies making use of ED fracture data may potentially overestimate the incidence of adult fractures.