Acoustic assessment of fracture healing. Capabilities and limitations of "a lost art".

R. S. Siffert, J. J. Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The ability of bone to conduct sound was applied clinically over 50 years ago to identify the presence of fresh fractures, although the technique has become a relatively "a lost art" as more sophisticated X-ray and other imaging techniques have been developed. The objective of this report is to challenge clinical orthopaedic surgeons unfamiliar with the technique to explore this simple beside method in the clinical management of fractures. A portable computer-based vibrational analysis device was employed and experiments conducted to objectively evaluate the capabilities of auscultatory percussion techniques. Auscultatory percussion can, with certain limitations, detect the presence of fractures, assess qualitatively the progress of healing, detect delayed or nonunions, and indicate when sufficiently firm continuity has occurred to permit early mobilization or loadbearing. Vibrational assessment is, however, subject to systematic and random errors, and thus cannot always discriminate between the stages of healing in a fractured bone; in addition, various artifacts can lead to significant uncertainty in the diagnosis. Nevertheless, auscultatory percussion is a useful tool in clinical fracture management, and particularly where roentgenographic facilities are inadequate or not available. Computerized vibrational analysis can be used in place of classical percussion/stethoscope methods by those with poor tonal capabilities,or when more objective record keeping is desired.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)614-618
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of orthopedics (Belle Mead, N.J.)
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


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