Background: Open reduction and internal fixation of a displaced unstable fracture of the lateral condyle of the humerus in a child usually produces a good result. Only a few reports have focused on closed reduction and internal fixation of these fractures. We prospectively studied closed reduction and internal fixation to determine its usefulness as the initial treatment for displaced unstable fractures of the lateral condyle of the humerus.
Methods: We classified lateral condylar humeral fractures into five groups according to the degree of displacement and the fracture pattern as determined on four radiographic views and created an algorithm for the treatment of these fractures on the basis of this classification system. We prospectively treated sixty-three unstable fractures (in forty-two boys and twenty-one girls) and assessed the quality of closed reduction.
Results: Thirteen of seventeen stage-3 fractures were reduced to =1 mm of residual displacement. Thirty of forty stage-4 fractures and three of six stage-5 fractures were reduced to =2 mm of displacement. In ten of forty stage-4 fractures and three of six stage-5 fractures, closed reduction to within 2 mm failed and open reduction and internal fixation was performed. There were no major complications such as osteonecrosis of the trochlea or capitellum, nonunion, malunion, or early physeal arrest.
Conclusions: Closed reduction and internal fixation is an effective treatment for unstable displaced lateral condylar fractures of the humerus in many children. If fracture displacement after closed reduction exceeds 2 mm, open reduction and internal fixation is recommended.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.