Digital tomography is an effective investigation for sternoclavicular joint pathology

Research paper by Graham Tytherleigh-Strong, Alex Mulligan, Satish Babu, Abbas See, Nawfal Al-Hadithy

Indexed on: 25 Jun '19Published on: 08 Apr '19Published in: European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery & Traumatology


Plain radiographs of the sternoclavicular joint (SCJ) are difficult to interpret, and a CT or MRI scan is the usual investigation of choice. At our hospital, we use digital SCJ tomograms as our first-line investigation for all SCJ pathologies. We wanted to ascertain whether this is a safe and appropriate first-line imaging investigation.We retrospectively reviewed every patient who had undergone an SCJ digital tomogram (DT) over a 4-year period. We cross-referenced each patient with their records to assess the reason for referral, result, requirement for further investigation, diagnosis and management.We identified 132 SCJ tomograms over the study period. Twelve patients were referred from other hospitals with pre-existing imaging and were excluded. The reasons for radiological investigation in the remaining 120 patients were pain/lump without trauma (54.2%), pain/lump with trauma (30.8%) and post-operative review (15%). Of the 102 patients who had DT as their initial investigation, the most common diagnoses identified included osteoarthritis, normal SCJ, fracture and dislocation among others. Only 18 (17.6%) of these patients required further investigation with CT and/or MRI.Our study is the first to assess digital tomography in SCJ pathology. We have shown that digital tomograms are an accurate and economically beneficial investigation for SCJ pathology and propose that it should be used as a first-line imaging investigation.