Nonoperative Treatment of Closed Extra-Articular Distal Humeral Shaft Fractures in Adults: A Comparison of Functional Bracing and Above-Elbow Casting

H J Christiaan Swellengrebel, David Saper, Paul Yi, Alexander A Weening, David Ring, Andrew Jawa
American Journal of Orthopedics 2018, 47 (5)
Diaphyseal fractures of the distal humerus have a high rate of union when treated with a functional brace or an above-elbow cast (AEC). This study compares alignment of the humerus and motion of the elbow after functional brace or AEC treatment. One-hundred and five consecutive patients with a closed, extra-articular fracture of the distal humeral diaphysis were identified in the orthopedic trauma databases of 3 hospitals between 2003 and 2012. Seventy-five patients with a follow-up of at least 6 months or with radiographic and clinical evidence of fracture union were included (51 treated with functional bracing and 24 treated with an AEC). All of the fractures healed. The average arc of elbow flexion was 130° ± 9° in braced patients vs 127° ± 12° in casted patients. Four patients (8%) in the bracing group and 4 (17%) in the casting group lost >20° of elbow motion. The average varus angulation on radiographs was 17° ± 8° in braced and 13° ± 8° in casted patients, while the average posterior angulation was 9° ± 6° vs 7° ± 7°, respectively. Closed extra-articular distal diaphyseal humerus fractures heal with both bracing and casting and there are no differences in average elbow motion or radiographic alignment.

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