Fracture-pattern-related therapy concepts in distal humeral fractures

Rony-Orijit Dey Hazra, Helmut Lill, Gunnar Jensen, Julia Imrecke, Alexander Ellwein
Obere Extremität 2018, 13 (1): 23-32
Around one third of humeral fractures and 2-6% of all fractures occur to the distal part of the humerus. There is a bimodal distribution differentiating between young male patients with high-energy and elderly female patients with low-energy trauma related to osteoporosis. The AO classification and Dubberley subclassification are used in daily routine. Most fractures are diagnosed on radiographs. For further evaluation, three-dimensional computed tomography is recommended, especially for comminuted or complex fractures. Owing to the long immobilization and resultant poor functional outcome, conservative treatment is followed for inoperable patients. The operative approach and osteosynthesis depend on the fracture pattern. In A1 avulsion fractures, open reduction and screw fixation are recommended. In A2/A3 fractures, a triceps-sparing approach following a 90° double-plate construction (radial dorsal/ulnar lateral) with locking plates is favored. Partial articular B1/B2 fractures are exposed via a medial or lateral approach using unilateral locking plates to stabilize the medial/lateral column. Coronal shear fractures (B3) are classified after Dubberley and are treated via an extended Kocher approach and headless compression screws in anteroposterior direction. If there is a further posterior comminution or a lateral column fragment, stabilization is needed for the lateral/medial column with a precontoured locking plate. In solely articular fracture patterns, a dorsal approach with either a 90° or 180° double-plate construction is advised. If a reconstruction is not possible owing to fracture complexity or bone quality, total elbow arthroplasty is a viable option. However, lifelong limitation in weight-bearing up to 5 kg, limited longevity, and the potential for complicated revision surgery should be considered.

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