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J Pediatr Orthop. 2012 Sep;32(6):567-72. doi: 10.1097/BPO.0b013e31824b542d.

Increased severity of type III supracondylar humerus fractures in the preteen population.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.



Supracondylar humerus fractures are the most common operative fractures in children; however, no studies describe the older child with this injury. The purpose of this study was to compare Gartland type III supracondylar humerus fractures in children older than 8 years of age with those in younger children than age 8. We hypothesized that there would be more complications in older children, reflecting a higher-energy injury mechanism.


A retrospective chart review of supracondylar humerus fractures managed at a single level I pediatric trauma institution from 2004 to 2007 was performed. Patients with type III fractures were divided into groups based on age at presentation greater or less than 8. Baseline demographics, fracture characteristics, mechanism of injury, operative technique, and complications were analyzed.


A consecutive series of 1297 pediatric patients with surgically treated supracondylar humerus fractures was retrospectively reviewed including 873 (67.3%) type III fractures. Of those, 160 (18.3%) patients were older than age 8 at time of injury. Older children were more likely to have fractures from high-energy mechanisms (45.1% vs. 28.7%, P<0.001) and more open fracture (3.8% vs. 1.3%, P=0.0097). There was no difference in preoperative or iatrogenic neuropraxias between groups. There was a shorter delay between presentation and surgery in older children (mean, 217 vs. 451 min, P<0.0001). Three or more pins were used more often in older patients (61.8% in older children vs. 43.6% in younger children, P<0.0001). Major complications including reoperation, loss of fixation, or compartment syndrome were rare in both groups (1.1% in younger group vs. 0.6% in older group, P=1.000). There was a trend toward more pin site infections in older children (3.75% vs. 1.56%, P=0.071). Physical therapy was required nearly 4 times more frequently in older children for management of residual stiffness (20.0% vs. 5.7%, P<0.0001).


Children older than 8 years of age have a higher rate of open supracondylar humerus fractures, although nerve injury rates are similar. Surgeons placed more pins for fixation of fractures in older patients and elbow stiffness requiring physical therapy occurred more commonly after surgical intervention.


III Retrospective cohort.

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