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Displaced medial epicondyle fractures of the humerus: surgical treatment and results. A report of 139 cases.

BACKGROUND: Elbow instability is a common feature after medial epicondyle fractures, displaced or not, even in the absence of dislocation. Undisplaced or minimally displaced fractures often have an underestimated degree of instability secondary to unrecognised capsuloligamentous and muscular injuries. The purpose of this retrospective study was to analyze and to assess objectively the results of the surgical treatment of these acute injuries.

METHODS: One hundred and thirty-nine displaced medial epicondyle fractures were surgically treated and reviewed. A valgus stress test was performed on each child under general anesthesia or sedation. Functional outcome was assessed using a scoring system based on a series of clinical and radiographic criteria. The mean age of patients at the time of accident was 11.9 years. Mean follow-up was 3.9 years. All fractures had associated with instability of the elbow. A posterolateral elbow dislocation was associated in 80 fractures. The medial epicondylar fragment was anatomically reduced and fixed in all cases.

RESULTS: The final result was excellent in 130 cases and good in 9 cases. Elbow were stable and pain free in all patients. Normal elbow range of motion was reported in 133 cases. Union was achieved in all cases. Among these cases, nine had presented a <<fibrous>> union with no change on valgus stress views. No cases of cubitus valgus >/=10 degrees were observed. Anatomical abnormalities of the elbow were present in 28 cases: periarticular calcification in 18 cases, medial condyle groove formation in 4 cases, moderate hypertrophy and fragmentation of the medial epicondyle, respectively, in 3 cases. The positive valgus stress test performed at the time of surgery for all epicondyle fractures without associated dislocation regardless of there degree of displacement justified our operative approach.

CONCLUSION: Operative intervention is a good management of these fractures and results in an anatomic reduction, a solid bone union and prevents valgus instability. Even with postoperative immobilization of the elbow (mean of 4 weeks), stiffness is rare. Damage to the medial stabilizing structure of the elbow rather than the extent of medial epicondyle displacement has a far greater influence on joint stability and outcome.

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