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J Pediatr Orthop B. 2000 Oct;9(4):309-18.

Fishtail deformity following fracture of the distal humerus in children: historical review, case presentations, discussion of etiology, and thoughts on treatment.

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  • 1Mayo Clinic/Mayo Foundation, 200 First Street, SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.


Fishtail deformity is an uncommon complication of distal humeral fractures in children. This article reports four cases accompanied by premature closure of a portion of the distal humeral physis with resultant deformity, length retardation, decreased elbow motion, and functional impairment. The ages of the patients at time of injury ranged from 4 years 2 months to 6 years 1 month (average 5 years 4 months). The average length of follow-up was 9 years 9 months (range, 3 years 5 months to 18 years 10 months). The cause of the arrest is multifactorial and may be due to a gap in reduction of an intracondylar fracture, avascular necrosis of the epiphysis, or central premature physeal arrest (bar formation) without a fracture gap or avascular necrosis. If identified in a young child, surgical closure of the medial and lateral portion of the physis may prevent the deformity from progressing and would not cause significant additional humeral length discrepancy.

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