Early Outcomes of Pediatric Elbow Dislocation-Risk Factors Associated With Morbidity

Robert F Murphy, Carley Vuillermin, Manahil Naqvi, Patricia E Miller, Donald S Bae, Benjamin J Shore
Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics 2017, 37 (7): 440-446

INTRODUCTION: Ulnohumeral elbow dislocation is a rare elbow injury in children. We reviewed a large cohort of pediatric ulnohumeral elbow dislocations and sought to identify risk factors associated with poor functional outcomes.

METHODS: Medical charts and radiographs were reviewed for all acute pediatric ulnohumeral elbow dislocations evaluated at our facility during a 7-year period. Charts were abstracted for demographics, injury characteristics, treatments, and complications. Functional outcomes were assessed at minimum 6-week follow-up using a combination of symptoms and elbow range of motion (Roberts criteria).

RESULTS: A total of 145 cases qualified for inclusion and were analyzed. The average age at injury was 11 years (range, 5 to 18 y), with equal distribution between male and female individuals. Concomitant elbow fractures were identified in 114 (80%) cases; the most common was the medial epicondyle (80/134, 60%). Treatment consisted of open reduction and fixation of associated fracture(s) in 59% of fracture cases. At an average follow-up of 3.7 months, the average range of motion was -5-degree extension to 126-degree flexion. Immobilization for longer than 2 weeks resulted in a loss of elbow extension (P<0.001). Functional outcomes as assessed by the Roberts criteria were good or excellent in 90% of cases. Risk factors associated with less than excellent functional outcomes included the presence of multiple fractures (P=0.001), the need for operative intervention (P=0.01), and the duration of immobilization (P=0.03). Complications requiring further treatment occurred in 16 cases (11%). Patients without complication resulted in a higher proportion of "excellent" functional outcomes (76%) compared with those with a complication (40%) (P<0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of pediatric ulnohumeral elbow dislocations experience good to excellent functional outcomes by early follow-up. Risk factors associated with less than excellent functional outcomes include the presence of multiple associated fractures, operative intervention, and prolonged immobilization. Complications requiring operative intervention are not rare, and have a significant effect on functional outcomes.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level IV-prognostic.

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