• Description
    • Pediatric Lateral Condyle Fractures involve the lateral condyle of the humerus and have a higher risk of nonunion, malunion, late displacement, and AVN than other pediatric elbow fractures.
  • Epidemiology
    • incidence
      • 17% of all distal humerus fractures in the pediatric population
      • 2nd most common elbow fracture (after supracondylar)
    • demographics
      • typically occurs in patients aged 6 years
    • location
      • most commonly are Salter-Harris IV fracture patterns of the lateral condyle 
  • Pathophysiology
    • mechanism of injury
      • pull-off theory
        • avulsion fracture of the lateral condyle that results from the pull of the common extensor musculature
      • push-off theory
        • fall onto an outstretched hand causes impaction of the radial head into the lateral condyle causing fracture
    • pathoanatomy
      • fractures originate proximally at the posterior aspect of the distal humerus metaphysis and extend distally and anteriorly across the physis and epiphysis into the elbow joint
      • fracture may extend medially into the trochlear groove, making the elbow unstable and prone to dislocation
  • Prognosis
    • outcomes have historically been worse than supracondylar fractures
      • articular naturemissed diagnosis, and higher risk of malunion/nonunion
  • Ossification centers of elbow 
    • age of ossification/appearance and age of fusion are two independent events that must be differentiated  
      • lateral (external) epicondyle
        • ossifies/appears at age 11 years
        • fuses at age 12-14 years
Ossification center
Years at ossification (appear on xray) (1)
Years at fusion (appear on xray) (1)
Internal (medial) epicondyle
External (lateral) epicondyle

(1) +/- one year, varies between boys and girl. 
C-R-I-T-O-E to remember age of ossification. 
CTE-R-O-I to remember age of fusion (capitellum, trochlea and external (lateral) epicondyle fuse together at puberty. Together they fuse to the distal humerus between the ages of 14-16 years old)

  • Blood supply 
    • the brachial artery lies anteriorly in the antecubital fossa
    • most of the blood supply of the distal humerus comes from the anastomotic vessels that course posteriorly
Milch Classification-controversial
Type I

Fracture line is lateral to trochlear groove (less common, elbow is stable as fracture does NOT enter trochlear groove)

Type II Fracture line extends medially into trochlear groove (more common, more unstable)
Fracture Displacement Classification-Weiss, et al
Type 1 <2mm, indicating intact cartilaginous hinge

Type 2 >2 mm < 4 displacement, intact articular cartilage on arthrogram
Closed reduction and fixation
Type 3 >4 mm,  articular surface disrupted on arthrogram
Open reduction and fixation
  • History
    • fall onto an outstretched hand
  • Symptoms
    • location
      • lateral elbow pain and swelling
    • severity
      • may be subtle if fracture minimally displaced
  • Physical exam
    • inspection
      • exam lacks the obvious deformity often seen with supracondylar fractures
      • swelling and tenderness are usually limited to the lateral side
      • lateral ecchymosis implies a tear in the aponeurosis of the brachioradialis and signals an unstable fracture
    • motion
      • may have increased pain with resisted wrist extension/flexion
      • may feel crepitus at the fracture site
  • Radiographs
    • recommended views
      • AP, lateral, and oblique views of elbow
        • internal oblique view most accurately shows fracture displacement because fracture is posterolateral  
    • optional views
      • contralateral elbow for comparison when ossification is not yet complete
      • routine elbow stress views are not recommended due to pain and lack of useful information
    • findings
      • fracture fragment most often lies posterolateral which is best seen on internal oblique views
      • in displaced fractures, the capitellum is laterally displaced in relation to radial head
      • posteriorly based Thurston-Holland fragment on the lateral view
  • Arthrogram
    • indications
      • minimally displaced fractures
      • to assess cartilage surface when there is incomplete/absent epiphyseal ossification 
      • allows dynamic assessment
  • CT scan
    • indication
      • rarely indicated, only if there is uncertainty as to the type of fracture
  • MRI 
    • indication
      • provides the ability to assess the cartilaginous integrity of the trochlea
      • useful for operative planning of delayed or non-unions
    • expensive
    • require GA/sedation to perform the test
    • arthrograms generally preferred to MRI 

Pediatric Elbow Injury Frequency
Fracture Type
% elbow injuries
Peak Age
Requires OR
Supracondylar fractures
Radial Head subluxation
Lateral condylar physeal fractures
Medial epicondylar apophyseal fracture
Radial Head and Neck fractures
Elbow dislocations
Medial condylar physeal fractures

  • Nonoperative
    • long arm casting x 4-6wks
      • indications
        • only if < 2 mm displacement in all views
        • medial cartilaginous hinge must remain intact
      • technique
        • cast with elbow at 90 degrees
        • weekly follow up and radiographs every week x first 3 weeks, including internal oblique view
        • occasionally > 6 weeks of casting is needed
  • Operative
    • CRPP + 3-6 wks in above elbow cast
      • indications
        • Weiss et al suggest fractures with < 4 mm of displacement have intact articular cartilage and can be treated with CRPP
    • open reduction and fixation + 3-6 wks in above elbow cast
      • open reduction (rather than closed) necessary to align joint surface
      • indications
        • > 4mm of displacement
        • joint incongruity
        • fracture non-union
    • supracondylar osteotomy
      • indications
        • deformity correction in late-presenting cubitus valgus - rarely needed
  • CRPP 
    • approach
      • closed reduction perhaps aided by aided by pushing the fragment anteromedially to close the gap
    • instrumentation
      • divergent pin configuration most stable
      • screw considered for more rigid fixation
        • allows early motion
        • compresses fracture site
    • complications
      • pins are less stiff
      • screw may need to be removed if crosses physis
  • Open reduction and fixation
    • approach
      • anterolateral approach as blood supply comes from posteriorly
    • soft tissue
      • below the skin, dissection to the joint is most often already accomplished by injury
      • avoid dissection of the posterior aspect of lateral condyle (source of vascularization) 
    • bone work
      • directly visualize the joint reduction, at times the metaphyseal reduction may not be perfect, as fracture fragment may have plastic deformation
    • instrumentation
      • most fractures can be fixed with 2 percutaneous pins (3 if comminuted) in parallel or divergent fashion
      • single screw for large fragments or non-union. bone grafting rarely needed 
    • complications
      • pins are less stiff
      • screw may need to be removed if crosses physis
  • Stiffness
    • incidence
      • most common complication
    • risk factors
      • stiffness may be an early sign of a non-union or delayed union
    • treatment
      • usually self-resolving
      • by 24 weeks 90% of motion returns and full motion is present by 48 weeks
  • Delayed Union
    • fracture that does not heal with 6 weeks of immobilization
    • risk factors
      • fracture that is seen more than 2 weeks after injury
    • treatment
      • may be treated with immobilization if minimally displaced
      • surgical treatment if displaced
      • must be followed until radiographic union as nonunion is common in this scenario
  • Nonunion 
    • incidence
      • higher rate of nonunion than other elbow fractures
    • risk factors
      • nonsurgical management
    • mechanism - theoretical
      • constant motion at fracture site from pull of the wrist extensors
      • intra-articular (synovial fluid impede fracture healing)
      • poor metaphyseal circulation to distal fragment
    • prevent nonunion by
      • preserving soft tissue attachments to lateral condyle
      • stable internal fixation
    • treatment
      • goal is to obtain union of metaphyseal fragment, not restore joint surface
      • may require bone graft
      • ORIF with screw
  • Cubitus Varus 
    • incidence
      • 20%
      • most common in nondisplaced and minimally displaced fractures
    • treatment
      • supracondylar osteotomy after skeletal maturity
  • Cubitus Valgus ± tardy ulnar nerve palsy        
    • due to lateral physeal arrest
    • slow, progressive ulnar nerve palsy caused by stretch
    • incidence
      • 10%
      • less common than cubitus varus
    • risk factors
      • significant deformities that cause physeal arrest 
    • treatment
      • supracondylar osteotomy after skeletal maturity and ulnar nerve transposition
  • AVN
    • incidence
      • occurs 1-3 years after fracture
    • risk factors
      • posterior dissection can result in lateral condyle osteonecrosis (may also occur in the trochlea
  • Fishtail deformity
    • area between medial ossification center and lateral condyle ossification center resorbs or fails to develop
    • does NOT predispose to arthritis
    • treatment
      • supracondylar osteotomy
  • Lateral overgrowth/prominence (spurring)   
    • incidence
      • up to 50% regardless of treatment, families should be counseled in advance
    • risk factors
      • result of displacement of the metaphyseal fragment in addition to disruption of the periosteal envelope
      • lateral periosteal alignment will prevent this from occurring
      • spurring is correlated with greater initial fracture displacement
  • Growth arrest
    • incidence
      • rare complication
    • risk factors
      • varus or valgus deformity
    • treatment
      • young patients may be treated with bar resection or osteotomy
      • older patients best treated with completion of the epiphysiodesis and osteotomy
  • Unsatisfactory appearance of surgical scar

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