The purpose of this retrospective study was to identify the patterns of distal humeral articular fractures and to analyze the results of open reduction and internal fixation of these injuries.

The cases of twenty-one patients with an articular fracture of the distal part of the humerus were reviewed at an average of forty months after the injury. Five components of the injury were identified: (1) the capitellum and the lateral aspect of the trochlea, (2) the lateral epicondyle, (3) the posterior aspect of the lateral column, (4) the posterior aspect of the trochlea, and (5) the medial epicondyle. All fractures were reduced and were stabilized with implants buried beneath the articular surface.

All fractures healed, and no patient had residual ulnohumeral instability or weakness. Ten patients required a second operation: six, for release of an elbow contracture; two, for treatment of ulnar neuropathy; one, for removal of hardware causing symptoms; and one, because of early loss of fixation. The average arc of ulnohumeral motion was 96 degrees (range, 55 degrees to 140 degrees ). The results according to the Mayo Elbow Performance Index were excellent in four patients, good in twelve, and fair in five.

Apparent fractures of the capitellum are often more complex fractures of the articular surface of the distal part of the humerus. Treatment of these injuries with operative reduction and fixation with buried implants can result in satisfactory restoration of elbow function.