Choice of surgical approach for capitellar fractures based on pathoanatomy of fractures: outcomes of surgical management

M R Ravishankar, Malhar N Kumar, Rishikesh Raut
European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery & Traumatology: Orthopédie Traumatologie 2017, 27 (2): 233-242

The understanding of the anatomic configuration of the fractures of the capitellum has enhanced in the last few years, and the classification of these fractures continues to evolve. It is essential to tailor the surgical approaches to these fractures based on the state-of-the-art classifications. Thirty-three patients with fractures of the capitellum were included in this retrospective study. The mean age of the patients was 37.9 years, and the mean follow-up period was 24.6 months. Seventeen patients had Bryan-Morrey type I fracture, three had type II fracture, two had type III fracture and eleven had type IV fracture. Of the 11 patients with Bryan-Morrey type 4 fracture, 5 patients belonged to Dubberley 2A and 3A category and 6 patients belonged to Dubberley 2B and 3B category. Bryan-Morrey type 1, 2 and 3 fractures were approached via extended lateral approach. Bryan-Morrey type 4 was further classified using the Dubberley classification. Dubberley 2A and 3A fractures were approached via the anterolateral approach, and Dubberley 2B and 3B fractures were approached via the posterior transolecranon approach. Fracture united in all patients. Three patients showed slight delay in union, but union was achieved eventually. Two patients had avascular necrosis of the capitellar fragment. The mean range of flexion/extension was 133° (SD ± 8.0°), and pronation/supination was 151° (SD ± 6.7°). The mean Mayo Elbow Performance Index at final follow-up was 80.9 (SD ± 13.9). Based on the MEPI score, 14 patients had excellent, 10 patients had good, 6 patients had fair and 3 patients had poor results (Dubberley type 3B fractures). Correct choice of surgical approach facilitates the accuracy of reduction and fixation of these difficult fractures. It also helps to minimize the requirement of two-incision approach. Anterolateral approach is an excellent approach for Dubberley 2A and 3A fractures.


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