Between 1988 and 1994, 128 consecutive children with grade III supracondylar humeral fractures presented for treatment at our hospital. Seventeen had absent or diminished (detected with Doppler but not palpable) radial pulses on initial examination. Fourteen of these 17 children recovered pulse (palpable) after reduction and stabilization of their fractures. The remaining three had persistent absence of radial pulse. Each of these three children was explored immediately and found to have a significant vascular injury requiring repair. Two of the 14 children who had initially regained their pulses had a progressive postoperative deterioration in their circulatory status during the first 24-36 h, including loss of the radial pulse. Both of these children had arteriograms that identified vascular injuries. Both underwent exploration and bypass grafting. One of these two children had been transferred 48 h after injury, resulting in delay of management of his vascular impairment. Despite exploration, vascular repair, and fasciotomy, he ultimately developed Volkmann's ischemic contracture. All five children with significant vascular injuries had absent or diminished radial pulses on presentation. Immediate reduction and fixation followed by careful evaluation and treatment of ischemia were associated with excellent outcome in four of the five children.

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