The current controversy regarding the management of fractures of the lateral condyle of the humerus presenting between 3 to 12 weeks prompted us to evaluate our results of open reduction and internal fixation of such fractures.
Patients and Methods:
Twenty-one patients operated between March 1995 and February 2001 qualified for this study. Five patients presented between 3–4 weeks, nine between 5–8 weeks and seven between 9–12 weeks post injury. Ten fractures were classified as stage II and eleven as stage III (Jacob et al. criteria). The mean age was 8 years (range: 4–14 years). All patients underwent surgery (open reduction and internal fixation with K-wires/screw, with or without bone grafting). The results were assessed by the modified criteria of Agarwal et al. after an average follow-up of 2.3 years.
Excellent to good results were observed in all the five patients presenting at 3–4 weeks post injury. In the patients presenting at 5–8 weeks, the results were excellent in one, good in four, fair in three, and poor in one patient. The fracture united in all cases; however, malunion was observed in four patients. The fractures that were operated at 9–12 weeks showed good results in one case, fair result in three cases, and poor result in three cases. Avascular necrosis of the lateral condyle in one patient, premature fusion in two patients, pin tract infection in three patients, and gross restriction of elbow movements in three patients were the major complications in this group. Accurate reduction was difficult as a result of new bone formation and remodeling at the fracture surfaces. Multiple incisions over the common extensor aponeurosis and bone graft supplementation were helpful for achieving acceptable reduction.
Open reduction and internal fixation is recommended in all cases of displaced fractures of the lateral condyle of the humerus presenting at up to 12 weeks post injury. However, the results become poorer with increase in duration after injury and the grade of displacement. To avoid complications it is important to carry out careful dissection of the soft tissue attachments and to mobilize the fragment without the use of force.