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World Radiography Day: the importance of radiography in the treatment of orthopaedic injuries

Posted: 07/11/2016

World Radiography Day is celebrated on 8 November each year. The date marks the anniversary of the discovery of x-radiation by Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895. The importance of radiography in healthcare cannot be stressed enough, with uses ranging from diagnosing diseases, conditions, or injuries to therapeutic uses such as in radiotherapy for cancer patients.

The latest set of statistics reported by NHS England (2013) confirms that the total number of imaging examinations or tests have gradually increased over the years, with 41.1 million imaging tests / examinations being performed in 2013. During the last 10 years, the overall number of tests has increased by 39%.

The term ‘radiography’ covers many types of imagery examinations including X-rays, which look through your bones, cavities and any foreign objects that might have found their way into your system; an MRI scan, which builds a 2D or 3D map of the tissue in your body; an angiography, which looks into the blood vessels in your body; and an ultrasound scan, which, for instance, can monitor a developing baby in pregnancy and is probably one of the most commonly known methods of radiography.

Performing, interpreting and reporting of radiography requires specialist training so that doctors have a sound knowledge of technology, the anatomy of the human body, physiology and pathology. Specialist doctors are known as ‘radiographers’ or ‘sonographers’.

Given the crucial role that radiography plays in healthcare, particularly in the diagnosis of injuries and conditions, and that the results will influence the treatment a patient will receive subsequently, it is vital that these tests are performed, interpreted and reported accurately. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and can result in injuries / conditions being misdiagnosed or missed altogether, leading to inappropriate treatment, or no treatment at all.

Naomi Holland, an associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, comments: “Statistics show that a majority of A&E attendances each year relate to orthopaedic related injuries, including dislocations / joint injury, fracture and amputation. X-rays play a key role in diagnosing patients in A&E and will help doctors assess the most appropriate course of treatment both in the immediate and in the long-term - including whether referral should be made to the fracture clinic. While many patients attending A&E are appropriately diagnosed and treated through the use of radiography, some of our clients have unfortunately had their injuries misdiagnosed through poor performance and interpretation of X-rays which can result in significant complications, including worsening of their injuries and in some cases complications such as irreversible nerve injury.

“Many A&E departments adopt a procedure known as ‘safety netting’ where scans and X-rays are reviewed shortly after a patient’s discharge, with the aim of detecting any cases where a patient’s injury / condition has not been appropriately diagnosed. If necessary, the patient will be asked to re-attend the hospital for further investigation. While this procedure has detected many cases where a patient has not received the right diagnosis, unfortunately, it does not always work.”

For more information on World Radiography Day, visit the Society of Radiographers website: 

If you, a member of your family or a friend have concerns about the management of any orthopaedic injuries, our specialist orthopaedic team may be able to assist.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP