Trauma films (summary approach)

Dr Jeremy Jones et al.

Trauma films are ubiquitous in an orthopaedic attachment and also in the Emergency Department.

In most cases, a trauma film will come with two views. It is important that you review both films because in some cases a fracture will only be visible on one view.

It is important to recognise that looking at films takes practice and while learning, it is useful to follow the same pattern when looking at films and describing what is going on.

In order to look at films and make an assessment of what is going on, you will need to:

  • know what normal looks like
  • understand the anatomy of the underlying structures
  • know what injuries are common and the fracture patterns they create

Common pathology

An x-ray is most helpful for looking at bones although joint effusion can be seen and soft-tissue swelling is often apparent. The commonest injuries that are seen include:

  • fractures: how to describe fractures
  • dislocation: complete disruption of joint surfaces
  • subluxation: partial disruption of the joint​

Medical student radiology curriculum
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