Supracondylar humerus fractures are widely considered the most common fracture of the elbow in children. Fractures can range from a less severe, nondisplaced type I fracture to a more severe, displaced type III fracture with no cortical contact. Type III fractures can lead to adverse physical, social, and emotional consequences if they are not treated effectively. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recently carried out a systematic review of the literature to develop a clinical practice guideline. The guidelines provided answers for the following questions regarding the treatment for type III supracondylar fractures (1) which is the preferred treatment for displaced supracondylar fractures of the humerus: reduction and casting versus closed reduction and percutaneous pinning; (2) which is the preferred method for fixing displaced supracondylar fractures of the humerus: medial (crossed) versus lateral pinning; and lastly, (3) does open reduction cause increased stiffness or have a high rate of complication? The purpose of this paper is to summarize and highlight the major findings from this systematic review.

PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, and The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched to locate 1726 relevant articles published from January 1966 to July 29, 2010. Of these, 44 met our criteria for inclusion and were reviewed systematically.

On the basis of the results from the systematic review: (1) we suggest closed reduction with pin fixation for patients with displaced (eg, Wilkins type II and III and displaced flexion) pediatric supracondylar fractures of the humerus. (2) The practitioner might use 2 or 3 laterally introduced pins to stabilize the reduction of displaced pediatric supracondylar fractures of the humerus. Considerations of potential harm indicate that the physician might avoid the use of a medial pin. (3) The practitioner might perform open reduction for displaced pediatric supracondylar fractures of the humerus after closed reduction if varus or other malposition of the bone occurs.

Clearly, controversy exists regarding the best treatments for pediatric supracondylar humerus fractures. Properly designed randomized controlled trials comparing treatment options are necessary to determine optimal treatments.

Level II.

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