Radiology

Thrower’s Fracture of the Humerus: A Case Report

CASE REPORT:


A 35-year-old, right-handed male presented to the emergency department with complaint of right upper arm pain. He was a member of an amateur baseball team; just prior to arrival he threw a ball and immediately felt a pop and sharp pain in his right upper arm. Since that time, he had been unable to move his arm due to pain. He reported no prior injury to the arm but did state that over the last several weeks he had been having an ache in that arm. He was otherwise healthy, took no medications, denied weakness, numbness and tingling in his right arm. He was a non-smoker and an occasional drinker. He used no drugs.

Physical exam was non-focal except for the right upper extremity. His right upper arm was swollen and tender to the touch. He had decreased range of motion in his elbow and his shoulder secondary to the pain. He had an obvious deformity of the right bicep region. Distally the patient was neurovascularly intact with normal range of motion and light touch sensation intact in the wrist and hand. He had a 2+ radial pulse and capillary refill was less than 3 seconds.

The patient was given pain medication and sent for an x-ray of his right humerus. The x-ray demonstrated a displaced spiral fracture of the humerus (fig 1). The patient was placed in a coaptation splint and prior to discharge, reexamination revealed no evidence of radial nerve palsy or radial artery injury. The patient followed up with the orthopedic doctor on-call and underwent open reduction and internal fixation of his injury within 1 week (fig 2).

 Figure 1. AP and oblique radiographs of the right humerus demonstrating a spiral fracture

Figure 1. AP and oblique radiographs of the right humerus demonstrating a spiral fracture

 Figure 2: Right Humerus status post open reduction and internal fixation

Figure 2: Right Humerus status post open reduction and internal fixation

DISCUSSION:

This patient's presentation is consistent with a well described, but rarely observed phenomenon known as a 'Thrower's Fracture.' First reported in 1930 [1], cases have been reportedly related to everything from a baseball [2, 3], to a cricket ball [4], to a dodge ball [5], and hand grenades [6]. As with our patient, many patients who present with this injury are amateur athletes who have likely not developed adequate cortical strength of their bones as compared to professional athletes [7]. The injury is often preceded by several weeks to months of aching in the region of the humerus, which is thought to represent a stress fracture [2, 4, 8]. The complexity of the throwing motion and related transfer of forces, results in significant torque being applied to the humeral shaft, leading to a fracture, most commonly in the mid to distal third of the diaphysis.

These patients can have similar complications to any mid-shaft, spiral humeral fracture including damage to the radial artery and radial nerve [9, 10]. In these cases, given the active nature of these athletes, and if underlying complications have occurred, surgeons may elect to repair this injury surgically [2, 4, 10], though this is not always necessary given the fracture morphology.

Faculty Reviewer: Dr. Kristy McAteer

REFERENCES:

  1. Wilmoth, C., Recurrent fracture of the humerus due to sudden extreme muscular action. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 1930. 12: p. 168-169.

  2. Miller, A., C.C. Dodson, and A.M. Ilyas, Thrower's fracture of the humerus. Orthop Clin North Am, 2014. 45(4): p. 565-9.

  3. Perez, A.Z., C.; Atia, H., Thrower's fracture of the humerus: An otherwise healthy 29-year-old man presented for evaluation of acute onset of severe right arm pain. Emergency Medicine, 2016. 48(5): p. 221-222.

  4. Evans, P.A., et al., Thrower's fracture: a comparison of two presentations of a rare fracture. J Accid Emerg Med, 1995. 12(3): p. 222-4.

  5. Colapinto, M.N., E.H. Schemitsch, and L. Wu, Ball-thrower's fracture of the humerus. CMAJ, 2006. 175(1): p. 31.

  6. Chao, S.L., M. Miller, and S.W. Teng, A mechanism of spiral fracture of the humerus: a report of 129 cases following the throwing of hand grenades. J Trauma, 1971. 11(7): p. 602-5.

  7. Ogawa, K. and A. Yoshida, Throwing fracture of the humeral shaft. An analysis of 90 patients. Am J Sports Med, 1998. 26(2): p. 242-6.

  8. Reed, W.J. and R.W. Mueller, Spiral fracture of the humerus in a ball thrower. Am J Emerg Med, 1998. 16(3): p. 306-8.

  9. Curtin, P., C. Taylor, and J. Rice, Thrower's fracture of the humerus with radial nerve palsy: an unfamiliar softball injury. Br J Sports Med, 2005. 39(11): p. e40.

  10. Bontempo, E. and S.L. Trager, Ball thrower's fracture of the humerus associated with radial nerve palsy. Orthopedics, 1996. 19(6): p. 537-40.

Intussusception Deception: An Atypical Presentation

THE CASE

A previously healthy 10 year-old male presents with one day of RLQ pain and vomiting.  He awoke earlier that morning with mild to moderate pain, ate oatmeal for breakfast, and then vomited twice. About one hour later, he was sitting at his desk at school when he suddenly developed more severe abdominal pain. He initially presented to his pediatrician’s office, and was subsequently referred to Hasbro Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. No known sick contacts and no recent travel outside Rhode Island. No prior surgeries. He denies fever, chills, respiratory symptoms, melena or hematochezia, diarrhea, or urinary symptoms.

On exam, BP 115/71, HR 80, Temp 98.5F, RR 20, SpO2 99%. He is ill-appearing and acutely distressed. He has RLQ tenderness to palpation and involuntary guarding. He has normal testicular lie without tenderness, edema or erythema.  

DIAGNOSTIC STUDIES

Lab studies notable for WBC 7.9, blood glucose 114.

Abdominal/appendiceal ultrasound was ordered and showed an enteroenteric intussusception in the RLQ with adjacent inflammation and free fluid concerning for possible focal perforation (Figure 1).

 Figure 1. “Crescent in a donut” sign. Transverse view of intestinal intussusception. The hyperechoic crescent is formed by mesentery that has been dragged into the intussusception.

Figure 1. “Crescent in a donut” sign. Transverse view of intestinal intussusception. The hyperechoic crescent is formed by mesentery that has been dragged into the intussusception.

DISCUSSION

Intussusception occurs when a part of the bowel invaginates into itself, causing venous and lymphatic congestion. Untreated, intussusception may lead to ischemia and perforation.

Classic Presentation

Intussusception most commonly occurs in infants and toddlers ages 6 to 36 months-old, and approximately 80 percent of cases occur in children younger than 2 years-old [1]. Classically, parents report 15-20 minute episodes, during which their child seems acutely distressed, characterized by vomiting, inconsolable crying, and curling the legs close to the abdomen in apparent pain. They may also describe a “normal period” between episodes or offer a history that includes grossly bloody stools.

75 percent of cases of intussusception in young children have no clear trigger. Some evidence suggests that viral illness plays a role, particularly enteric adenovirus, which is thought to stimulate GI tract lymphatic tissue, in turn causing Peyer’s patches in the terminal ileum to hypertrophy and act as lead points for intussusception [2].

Atypical Presentation

Approximately 10 percent of intussusceptions occur in children older than 5 years [3]. Unlike their younger counterparts, these patients tend to present atypically, with pathologic lead points that triggered the event [4]. The patient described above illustrates this well. At 10 years-old, he presented with peritonitis after his intussusception caused focal perforation, and had no prior history of colicky abdominal pain or bloody stools. Ultimately, he was found to have Meckel’s diverticulum. This is the most common lead point among children, but other causes include polyps, small bowel lymphoma, and vascular malformations [5].

 Figure 2. Elongated soft tissue mass. Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard,  radiopaedia.org

Figure 2. Elongated soft tissue mass. Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard, radiopaedia.org

Diagnostic Testing

Plain abdominal radiographs are not sufficient to rule out intussusception, but they can be useful to exclude perforation and ensure that non-operative reduction by enema is safe.  Some signs of intussusception on abdominal x-ray include an elongated soft tissue mass (classically in the right upper quadrant as in Figure 2) and/or an absence of gas is the distal collapsed bowel, consistent with bowel obstruction.

The optimal diagnostic test for intussusception depends on the patient’s presentation. When infants or toddlers present classically with intermittent severe abdominal pain and no signs of peritonitis, air or contrast enema is the study of choice because it is both diagnostic and therapeutic (Figure 3).

 Figure 3. Intussusception treat with air enema. Case courtesy of Dr Andrew Dixon,  radiopaedia.org

Figure 3. Intussusception treat with air enema. Case courtesy of Dr Andrew Dixon, radiopaedia.org

When the diagnosis is unclear, however, abdominal ultrasound is preferred. Ultrasound has been shown to be 97.9% sensitive and 97.8% specific for diagnosing ileocolic intussusception, and is increasingly becoming the initial diagnostic study of choice at some institutions [6,7]. In addition to the ultrasound finding of “crescent in a donut” shown above, other sonographic signs of intussusception include the “target sign” (Figure 4) and the “pseudokidney sign” (Figure 5).

 Figure 4. Target Sign. Transverse view of the intestinal intussusception. The hyperechoic rings are formed by the mucosa and muscularis, and the hypoechoic bands are formed by the submucosa. Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard,  radiopaedia.org

Figure 4. Target Sign. Transverse view of the intestinal intussusception. The hyperechoic rings are formed by the mucosa and muscularis, and the hypoechoic bands are formed by the submucosa. Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard, radiopaedia.org

 Figure 5. Pseudokidney sign. Longitudinal view of intestinal intussusception. This view of the intussuscepted bowel mimics a kidney. Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard,  radiopaedia.org

Figure 5. Pseudokidney sign. Longitudinal view of intestinal intussusception. This view of the intussuscepted bowel mimics a kidney. Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard, radiopaedia.org

Treatment

Without clinical or radiographic signs of perforation, non-operative reduction is first-line treatment. Operative intervention is indicated when the patient is acutely ill, has a lead point needing resection, or the intussusception is in a location unlikely to respond to non-surgical management. For example, small bowel intussusceptions are less likely than ileocolic intussusceptions to respond to non-operative techniques [8].  


CASE CONCLUSION

The patient was taken emergently to the OR, where he underwent exploratory laparoscopy with laparoscopic appendectomy and resection of a Meckel’s diverticulum. No intussusception was noted intraoperatively.  He recovered well, and was discharged home two days later.


A BIT MORE ABOUT MECKEL’S DIVERTICULUM

Meckel’s diverticulum is the most common congenital anomaly of the GI tract. It is a true diverticulum (meaning it contains all layers of the abdominal wall) that is a persistent remnant of the omphalomesenteric duct, which connects the midgut to the yolk sac of the fetus. The “rule of twos” is the classic mnemonic to recall some other important features: it occurs in approximately 2% of the population; the male-to-female ratio is 2:1; it most often occurs within 2 feet the ileocecal valve; it is approximately 2 inches in size; and 2-4% of patients will develop complications related to Meckel’s diverticulum (such as intussusception), usually before age 2 [9].


TAKEAWAY POINTS

  • Consider intussusception in older patients. While it is less likely, approximately 10% of cases occur in patients over 5 years old.

  • In older patients, suspect pathological lead points, such as Meckel’s diverticulum, as potential etiologies of intussusception.

  • Obtain an abdominal x-ray before performing diagnostic/therapeutic enema to rule out perforation.

  • Ultrasound is the preferred test when the diagnosis is uncertain.

  • Patients with small bowel intussusceptions or known lead points are less likely to respond to non-operative reduction.

  • Patients who are acutely ill-appearing require surgery as first-line treatment.


Faculty Reviewer: Dr. Jane Preotle


SOURCES

  1. Intussusception: clinical presentations and imaging characteristics.. Retrieved June 22, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22929138

  2. Adenovirus infection and childhood intussusception. - NCBI. Retrieved June 22, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1415074

  3. Surgical approach to intussusception in older children: influence of .... Retrieved June 22, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25840080

  4. The clinical implications of non-idiopathic intussusception. - NCBI. Retrieved June 22, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9880737

  5. The leadpoint in intussusception. - NCBI. Retrieved June 22, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2359000

  6. Pediatric Emergency Medicine-Performed Point-of-Care Ultrasound. Retrieved June 22, 2018, from http://www.annemergmed.com/article/S0196-0644(17)31265-9/fulltext

  7. Comparative Effectiveness of Imaging Modalities for the Diagnosis .... Retrieved June 22, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28268146

  8. Small bowel intussusception in symptomatic pediatric patients - NCBI. Retrieved June 22, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11910476

  9. Sagar, Jayesh, Vikas Kumar, and D. K. Shah. "Meckel's diverticulum: a systematic review." Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 99, no. 10 (2006): 501-505.








Ultrasound Case of the Month: August 2018

The Case

This is an 82 year-old male who presented to the ED with acute chest pain and palpitations. He had a known history of AAA s/p repair. Patient denied abdominal, back, or flank pain. There was no loss of consciousness. An EKG was performed and was consistent with SVT with aberrancy. A bedside abdominal ultrasound was performed and the following images were obtained:

 Figure 1: Proximal axial abdominal aortic ultrasound

Figure 1: Proximal axial abdominal aortic ultrasound

 Figure 2: Longitudinal abdominal aorta ultrasound

Figure 2: Longitudinal abdominal aorta ultrasound

 Figure 3: Distal axial abdominal aorta ultrasound

Figure 3: Distal axial abdominal aorta ultrasound

Diagnosis

Known AAA s/p repair (also SVT with aberrancy)

Case Follow-up

The patient remained HDS and adenosine was given with good effect. He was admitted to medicine, and had no further episodes of SVT. He was discharged home with cardiology follow up.

Discussion

The images were acquired using the curvilinear probe. The probe was placed on the abdomen just superior of the umbilicus and just left of midline. Both longitudinal and axial views were acquired.

Ultrasound is the initial test of choice for suspected AAA in the ED. It has sensitivity of 94-99%, and has been shown to decrease mortality in AAA patients by 20-50% compared to CT--likely due to decreased time to diagnosis.

A normal abdominal aorta is typically < 3cm in diameter. A complete AAA ultrasound should evaluate the aorta from the xiphoid process past the aortic bifurcation. US may be considered positive if the aorta is >3 cm in a patient with clinical concern for AAA,  or > 5 cm without clinical concern.

Faculty Reviewer: Dr. Kristin Dwyer

For an in-depth tutorial on the abdominal aorta ultrasound, check out this video from EM:RAP HD:

Additional Resources

https://cdemcurriculum.com/bedside-ultrasound-aaa-examination/

https://radiopaedia.org/articles/abdominal-aortic-aneurysm

https://www.acep.org/sonoguide/abdominal_aortic_aneurysm.html

http://5minsono.com/aaa/