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Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2014 Feb;100(1 Suppl):S55-63. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2013.11.002. Epub 2014 Jan 23.

Articular fractures of the distal humerus.

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Service de chirurgie orthopédique et traumatologique, université Paris-Sud, hôpital Antoine-Béclère, 157, rue de la Porte-de-Trivaux, 92140 Clamart, France. Electronic address:


Distal humeral fractures represent 2% of all adult elbow fractures. Injury mechanisms include high-energy trauma with skin involvement, and low energy trauma in osteoporotic bone. Treatment goals are anatomical restoration in young, high-demand patients and quick recovery of activities of daily living in the elderly. Complete fractures are relatively easy to diagnose, but partial intra-articular fractures are not. The clinical diagnosis must take into account potential complications such as open injuries and ulnar nerve trauma. Standard X-rays with additional distraction series in the operating room are sufficient in complete articular fracture cases. Partial intra-articular fractures will need CT scan and 3D reconstruction to fully evaluate the involved fragments. SOFCOT, AO/OTA and Dubberley classifications are the most useful for describing fractures and selecting treatment. Surgery is the optimal treatment and planning is based on fracture type. Complete fractures are treated using a posterior approach. Triceps management is a function of fracture lines and type of fixation planned. Constructs using two plates at 90° or 180° are the most stable, with additional frontal screw for intercondylar fractures. Elbow arthroplasty may be indicated in selected patients, having severely communited distal humerus fractures and osteoporotic bone. Open fractures make fixation and wound management more challenging and unfortunately have poorer outcomes. Other complications are elbow stiffness, non-union, malunion and heterotopic ossification.


Arthroplasty; Distal humerus; Elbow; Fracture; Hemiarthroplasty; Plate

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