Identifying Risk Factors for Elbow Injury in Children Presenting to the Emergency Department With Distal Forearm Fractures

Max Rubinstein, Priya Hirway, Mark R Zonfrillo
Pediatric Emergency Care 2021 July 1, 37 (7): 352-356

BACKGROUND: Pediatric distal forearm fractures are one of the most common injuries seen in the emergency department. Orthopedic teaching instructs providers to radiograph the joint above and the joint below the fracture site for concurrent injury. Despite this teaching, there is little evidence to suggest that elbow injuries are common in children with distal forearm fractures. Similarly, there are few data that help the clinician predict which children are at higher risk for co-injury.

METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of the 2011 National Emergency Department Sample data set. Children aged 2 to 17 years with an International Classification of Disease, Ninth Revision, code for a distal forearm fracture were included in the study. The primary outcome of interest was an "elbow" injury, defined as an International Classification of Disease, Ninth Revision, code for proximal radius, proximal ulna, or distal humeral fracture or dislocation. Multivariable logistic regression was performed using patient demographics, injury severity score, mechanism of injury, and underlying medical conditions.

RESULTS: A total of 54,262 children with a distal forearm fracture were identified. Of these children, only 0.8% (n = 463) had an elbow injury. Supracondylar fractures of the humerus were the most common elbow injury seen (48.2% of elbow injuries seen). Children were more likely to have a co-injury if they were younger (9.8 years vs 8.3 years, P < 0.01), female (36% vs 44%, P < 0.01), injured via fall (68% vs 76%, P < 0.01), had a higher injury severity score (4.1 vs 4.5, P < 0.01), or were admitted for their injuries (1.5% vs 15.7%, P < 0.01). In the adjusted model, only age and disposition were predictors of co-injury. Isolated buckle fracture of the radius and metaphyseal fracture of the radius with dorsal angulation were protective against elbow injury (odds ratio = 0.39 and 0.60, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Children with distal forearm fractures very rarely have concurrent elbow injuries. These injuries are more likely in younger female children.

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