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Reliability of Internal Oblique Elbow Radiographs for Measuring Displacement of Medial Epicondyle Humerus Fractures: A Cadaveric Study

Gottschalk, Hilton P. MD; Bastrom, Tracey P. MA; Edmonds, Eric W. MD

doi: 10.1097/BPO.0b013e318279c673
Upper Extremity Trauma

Background: Standard elbow radiographs (AP and lateral views) are not accurate enough to measure true displacement of medial epicondyle fractures of the humerus. The amount of perceived displacement has been used to determine treatment options. This study assesses the utility of internal oblique radiographs for measurement of true displacement in these fractures.

Methods: A medial epicondyle fracture was created in a cadaveric specimen. Displacement of the fragment (mm) was set at 5, 10, and 15 in line with the vector of the flexor pronator mass. The fragment was sutured temporarily in place. Radiographs were obtained at 0 (AP), 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, and 90 degrees (lateral) of internal rotation, with the elbow in set positions of flexion. This was done with and without radio-opaque markers placed on the fragment and fracture bed. The 45 and 60 degrees internal oblique radiographs were then presented to 5 separate reviewers (of different levels of training) to evaluate intraobserver and interobserver agreement.

Results: Change in elbow position did not affect the perceived displacement (P=0.82) with excellent intraobserver reliability (intraclass correlation coefficient range, 0.979 to 0.988) and interobserver agreement of 0.953. The intraclass correlation coefficient for intraobserver reliability on 45 degrees internal oblique films for all groups ranged from 0.985 to 0.998, with interobserver agreement of 0.953. For predicting displacement, the observers were 60% accurate in predicting the true displacement on the 45 degrees internal oblique films and only 35% accurate using the 60 degrees internal oblique view.

Conclusions: Standardizing to a 45 degrees internal oblique radiograph of the elbow (regardless of elbow flexion) can augment the treating surgeon’s ability to determine true displacement. At this degree of rotation, the measured number can be multiplied by 1.4 to better estimate displacement. The addition of a 45 degrees internal oblique radiograph in medial humeral epicondyle fractures has good intraobserver and interobserver reliability to more accurately estimate the true displacement of these fractures.

Level of Evidence: Diagnostic study, Level II (Development of diagnostic study with universally applied reference “gold” standard).

Rady Children’s Hospital and Health Center, San Diego, CA

Supported by the Physicians Development Fund, Rady Children’s Specialists of San Diego, A Medical Foundation.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Eric W. Edmonds, MD, Rady Children’s Hospital and Health Center, 3030 Children’s Way, Suite 410, San Diego, CA 92123. E-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.