SUMMARY:
A retrospective review of 16 patients with floating elbow injuries over a 9-year period at a tertiary care children's hospital confirms that these injuries are associated with substantial swelling and the potential to develop compartment syndrome, particularly when circumferential cast immobilization is used. Among 10 patients in whom the forearm was treated with closed reduction and plaster immobilization, a compartment syndrome developed in 2, and 4 patients had incipient compartment syndrome that responded to splitting of the cast; 3 of these subsequently required remanipulation of the distal radius. One patient with compartment syndrome had Volkmann ischemic contracture. Six patients underwent stabilization of both the distal humeral and forearm fractures with percutaneously inserted Kirschner wires, thereby allowing postreduction immobilization in a split cast. None of these patients had problems with excessive swelling or compartment syndrome. Percutaneous Kirschner wire fixation of both the humeral and forearm fractures in pediatric floating elbow injuries allows noncircumferential immobilization, thereby reducing the risk of compartment syndrome.





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