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Isolated pediatric radial head and neck fractures. A rare injury. Analysis and follow up of 19 patients.

Injury 2015 October
PURPOSE: Isolated pediatric radial head and neck fractures are rare. In recent literature, their incidence is estimated to be around 1% of all fractures. High rates of complications are reported. Beside non-operative treatment, head fractures are treated with k-wires, mini-screws or polypins, whereas neck fractures are treated more and more with elastic stable intramedullary nailing (ESIN). Purpose of the study was to evaluate the operative management, complications and clinical outcomes of these injuries.

METHODS: Retrospective analysis between 2002 and 2014. 19 children with isolated radial head and neck fractures were treated in our institution. Age averaged 11 years (range 6-16). Operative treatment with elastic stable intramedullary nailing (ESIN) was performed in 13 patients, in one patient with an additional k-wire; two screw, two k-wire and one polypin fixation was performed in the others. One child was treated non-operatively.

RESULTS: Follow up averaged 19 months (2-89). Initial complications occurred in nine children such as fracture dislocation (1), nonunion (1), malunion (1), elbow ankylosis (1), infection (1), crossunion (2), intraarticular screw penetration (1) and radial nerve irritation (1). ESIN lead a complication rate of 36%, mini-screw fixation and k-wire fixation showed a complication rate of 100%. All children (100%) with an open reduction maneuver and 36% children with closed or percutaneous reduction developed a complication. Secondary surgeries included ESIN removal and k-wire fixation (1), open arthrolysis (1), debridement (1), removal of crossunion (1), radial head removal plus arthrolysis (3) and screw removal (1). Subsequently 74% (14) children showed a free or <20° limited range of motion on final follow up. Implant removal was performed after an average of 8 weeks (5-12). Three patients were transferred to our surgical department after a complication following initial treatment. Excluding these, an overall complication rate of 37.5% was noted.

CONCLUSIONS: Radial head injuries in children are rare. In this population, neck fractures occur more frequently. If conservative treatment is not possible, ESIN seems to be a simple and protective procedure for neck fractures; polypins or screws can be used for complicated radial head fractures. Complications occur frequently after open reduction. If closed reduction and internal fixation is possible, range of motion can be completely restored.

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