American Academy of Pediatrics – Section on Orthopaedics and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America

View all recommendations from this society

February 12, 2018

Do not order advanced imaging studies (MRI or CT) for most musculoskeletal conditions in a child until all appropriate clinical, laboratory and plain radiographic examinations have been completed.

History, physical examination, and appropriate radiographs remain the primary diagnostic modalities in pediatric orthopaedics, as they are both diagnostic and prognostic for the great majority of pediatric musculoskeletal conditions. Examples of such conditions would include, but not be limited to, the work up of injury or pain (spine, knees and ankles), possible infection, and deformity. MRI examinations and other advanced imaging studies are costly, frequently require sedation in the young child (5 years old or less), and may not result in appropriate interpretation if clinical correlations cannot be made. Many conditions require specific MRI sequences or protocols best ordered by the specialist who will be treating the patient. Inappropriately obtained MRIs may need to be repeated in those circumstances. Additionally, a significant dose of radiation is delivered to the patient during a CT scan, so their utility in a specific case would be best confirmed prior to ordering. Therefore, in those conditions where advanced imaging is indicated, it has greater value when it is used to answer a specific question that arises from a thorough clinical and appropriate radiographic evaluation. Additionally, if you believe findings warrant additional advanced imaging, discuss with the consulting orthopaedic surgeon to make sure the optimal studies are ordered.

These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

The Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA) Evidence Based Medicine Committee and the Advocacy Committee worked together during 2014 and 2015 to develop five items in the practice of Pediatric Orthopaedics of tests or procedures that should not be done routinely. Approximately 20 members of these two committees participated in the process. Each surgeon, in a blinded fashion, submitted 5 items each from their practices and experience of tests or procedures that they found were commonly over-utilized. The items were tallied in order of number of times that item was listed by each surgeon. A total of 30 items were submitted. Both committees then agreed on final list of 5 items based of frequency of responses and importance of the condition. The Evidence Based Committee reviewed the appropriate literature to provide references and support for each item. The Executive Committee of the Orthopaedic Section of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reviewed the 5 listed items and provided further feedback. POSNA Board of Directors provided further feedback and voted on the final list. Various expert committees and sections of the AAP reviewed and approved the list. The AAP Executive Committee granted final approval of the list.


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