Background: Fractures of the lateral humeral condyle represent the second most common elbow fracture in children and the most common physeal fracture about the elbow. Growth disturbances after this fracture, including premature physeal arrest, are rare but important complications. Only 4 radiographically documented reports of premature physeal arrest exist to date with just 1 offering comparative views. No computed tomography (CT) evidence of this event has previously been reported in the literature. The purpose of this study is to provide well-documented radiographic evidence of premature capitellar growth arrest, substantiated by CT imaging.
Methods: We reviewed the radiographic and clinical records of 3 patients (mean age, 6.9 y) that presented with Jakob type III fractures. All fractures were treated with open reduction and internal fixation. Follow-up ranged from 1.6 to 11.1 years (mean, 6.0 y). Radiographs were evaluated for any growth disturbances, including premature capitellar-metaphyseal fusion, lateral spur formation, changes in the humeral-ulnar angles, and fishtail deformities. Contralateral elbow radiographs were utilized for comparison when available. Clinical findings at last follow-up were provided for clinical correlation.
Results: The mean time to arrest and age at arrest were 2.6 and 9.5 years, respectively. At last follow-up, patient 1 was functionally asymptomatic, showed a 6-degree increase in the humeral-ulnar angle, an increase in the carrying angle, and a fishtail deformity. Patient 2 was functionally asymptomatic, showed equal humeral-ulnar angles, and a small lateral spur formation on the injured side. Patient 3 was functionally symptomatic with pain and a 15-degree loss of extension on the injured side. There was also a 13-degree increase in the humeral-ulnar angle with an increase in carrying angle of approximately 8 degrees.
Conclusions: This is the first study to radiographically document premature physeal arrest after lateral condyle fractures using both comparative views and CT imaging. It is important for surgeons to be aware of this potential complication after lateral condyle fractures of the humerus and to diligently monitor patients annually for possible intervention until they have achieved skeletal maturity.
Level of Evidence: Level IV—case series.