Outcome after open reduction and internal fixation of capitellar and trochlear fractures

James H Dubberley, Kenneth J Faber, Joy C Macdermid, Stuart D Patterson, Graham J W King
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume 2006, 88 (1): 46-54

BACKGROUND: Capitellar and trochlear fractures are uncommon fractures of the distal aspect of the humerus. There is limited information about the functional outcome of patients managed with open reduction and internal fixation.

METHODS: The functional outcome of twenty-eight patients, with a mean age (and standard deviation) of 43 +/- 13 years, who were treated with open reduction and internal fixation for capitellar and trochlear fractures was evaluated at a mean duration of follow-up of 56 +/- 33 months. Patient outcomes were assessed with physical and radiographic examination, range-of-motion measurements, strength testing, and self-reported questionnaires (Short Form-36, Mayo Elbow Performance Index, American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons Elbow Assessment Form, and Patient-Rated Elbow Evaluation scales).

RESULTS: Eleven fractures involved the capitellum with or without fracture of the lateral ridge of the trochlea, four involved the capitellum and trochlea as one piece, and thirteen involved the capitellum and trochlea as separate fragments. These fractures were further characterized by the presence or absence of posterior comminution. Fourteen patients had isolated fractures, and fourteen had other elbow, forearm, or wrist injuries. Patients with more complex fractures required more extensive surgery, had more complications resulting in secondary procedures, and had poorer outcomes compared with those with simple fractures. The average score on the Mayo Elbow Performance Index (91 +/- 11), the average quality-of-life scores (46 on the physical component and 50 on the mental component of the Short Form-36), and the average range of motion (19 degrees to 138 degrees ) suggest favorable patient outcomes overall. Two comminuted fractures did not unite and required conversion to a total elbow arthroplasty.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with isolated noncomminuted capitellar and/or trochlear fractures have better results than those with more complex fractures. A classification system based on the radiographic patterns of these fractures is recommended.

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