Background: Percutaneous Kirschner wire fixation represents the classic treatment for displaced supracondylar humeral fractures in childhood. This type of treatment first requires satisfactory reduction of the fracture. Failure to achieve a satisfactory reduction or inadequate stabilization can result in instability of the fracture fragments, which can result in either an unsatisfactory cosmetic or functional outcome. In our experience, these problems can be overcome with the use of a small lateral external fixator.
Methods: Between 1999 and 2005, thirty-one of 170 Gartland type-III supracondylar humeral fractures were treated with a lateral external fixator. The outcome of treatment was analyzed with regard to limb alignment, elbow movement, cosmetic appearance, and patient satisfaction.
Results: In twenty-eight of the thirty-one patients, a satisfactory reduction was achieved with closed methods. All children except one had a normal or good range of movement. The cosmetic result was excellent in all cases. All of the children and their parents stated that they would choose this treatment again.
Conclusions: The use of a small lateral external fixator seems to be a safe alternative for the treatment of displaced supracondylar fractures of the humerus when a closed reduction appears to be unattainable by means of manipulation alone or when sufficient stability is not achieved with standard methods of Kirschner wire fixation.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.