Supracondylar humerus fractures are the most commonly operated upper extremity fracture in pediatric orthopaedics, yet there does not currently exist a standardized recommendation for a postoperative protocol. As advanced practice providers take on larger roles in the care of fracture patients, it may alleviate confusion to standardize postoperative protocols. The aim of this study was to compare outcomes between three different postoperative management protocols following operative fixation of supracondylar humerus fractures.
This is a retrospective study of all patients who underwent operative fixation of a supracondylar humerus fracture during the 2014 to 2015 academic year. Postoperative protocols were classified as either “liberal,” “intermediate,” or “conservative,” based on how quickly the surgeon allowed unrestricted motion of the elbow postoperatively. Patients were evaluated for range of motion, functional elbow motion, and elbow clinical function, as well for postoperative complications. Univariate analysis was conducted to detect the differences in outcomes between protocol groups with P<0.01 considered significant.
One hundred patients were included in the final analysis, with 17 patients in the liberal group, 50 in the intermediate group, and 33 in the conservative group. There were no differences in patient population (age, sex, fracture type, concomitant nerve palsy, ipsilateral injuries, or physical therapy referrals) between the groups (P>0.01). There were no differences in range of motion, functional motion, or elbow clinical function (P>0.01) between the postoperative protocol groups. There were no postoperative complications (unplanned return to operating room, refracture, need for fixation revision, or infection) in any patient.
There were no differences in postoperative complications or outcomes between the patients in the liberal, intermediate, or conservative protocol groups. In an efficiency-focused era, we conclude that a standardized liberal protocol be considered at a busy orthopaedic center.
Level of Evidence:
This study is a level III therapeutic study. It is a retrospective study that compares the outcomes after following 1 of 3 different postoperative protocols.