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Pediatric Forearm Fractures Are Effectively Immobilized With a Sugar-Tong Splint Following Closed Reduction.

INTRODUCTION: Following closed reduction and initial casting of pediatric forearm fractures, loss of reduction (LOR) occurs in ∼5% to 75% of fractures. Sugar-tong splinting has been shown to maintain acceptable reduction in pediatric distal radius fractures while potentially avoiding issues associated with circumferential casting. We hypothesized that the sugar-tong splint would be an acceptable method for initial immobilization to prevent LOR in distal, mid-shaft, and proximal pediatric forearm fractures.

METHODS: This is an IRB-approved, retrospective study. Inclusion criteria included pediatric patients age 4 to 16 years old, open growth plates, with a displaced forearm fracture (radius, ulna, or both bone) that underwent closed reduction. The clinical protocol involved closed reduction and application of a sugar-tong splint by an orthopaedic resident under conscious sedation in the emergency room. Clinical follow-up occurred at 1, 2, 4, and 6-week intervals with a long-arm cast overwrap applied at the initial clinic visit. Primary outcome was radiographic LOR which was defined as a change of >10 degrees of angulation on anterior posterior/lateral projections from initial postreduction radiograph or previous follow-up radiograph. The secondary outcome was the need for further intervention.

RESULTS: Sixty-four (38%) patients demonstrated radiographic LOR with 90% of LORs occurring in the first 2 weeks. LOR was significantly more common in distal radius fractures [48/110 (44%)] than with either proximal [2/14 (14%), P=0.04] or mid-shaft radius fractures [7/41 (17%), P=0.004]. There was no difference in LOR by location for ulna fractures [proximal=2/13 (15%), middle=4/38 (11%), distal=20/77 (26%), P>0.08]. There was no difference in radial LOR in patients with isolated radius fractures compared with both bone forearm fracture (17/40 vs. 40/125, P=0.22), or ulnar LOR between isolated ulna and both bone forearm fracture (0/3 vs. 26/125, P>0.99).

CONCLUSION: The sugar-tong splint is effective at maintaining reduction of pediatric forearm fractures similar to published rates for casting. While effective at all levels of the forearm, the sugar-tong splint performed best in proximal and mid-shaft forearm fractures.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level IV.

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