The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic drastically altered children’s activity patterns. Our goal was to investigate how COVID-19 affected demographics, injury characteristics, treatment patterns, follow-up, and outcomes in pediatric supracondylar humerus (SCH) fractures.
This was an Institutional Review Board–approved retrospective analysis of patients undergoing surgery for a SCH fracture from May to November 2019 (pre-COVID-19) and from May to November 2020 (during COVID-19) at 2 tertiary children’s hospitals. Demographic information, injury characteristics, hospital course, and follow-up data were collected and compared.
SCH fractures decreased by >50% from 2019 (149) to 2020 (72). Children in the 2020 cohort were younger (mean 5.2 y old) compared with 2019 (6.0 y old) (P=0.019). Mechanism of injury was significantly different in 2020 (P<0.001), as the proportion of trampoline and furniture fractures increased from 8% and 17% to 15% and 33%, respectively. The proportion of playground and monkey bar fractures decreased from 20% and 17% to 3% and 4%, respectively. Distribution of Gartland type and neurovascular injury rates were similar in 2019 and 2020 (P=0.411 and 0.538). Time from emergency department admission to the operating room and duration of hospital admission were both unchanged from 2019 to 2020 (P=0.864 and 0.363). The duration of postoperative follow-up in 2019 was 94.5 days compared with 72.8 days in 2020 (P=0.122), as more pandemic patients were lost to follow up (22.5% vs. 35.2%, P=0.049).
The demographics, mechanism of injury, and follow-up practices of pediatric SCH fractures changed significantly during the pandemic, likely because of school closures and lock-downs changing activity patterns. Different mechanisms of injury affected younger patients and reflected the new ways children played. Trampoline-related and furniture-related injuries overtook the classic playground falls as primary mechanism of injury. Despite the need for COVID-19 testing, there was no delay in time to the operating room. Hospitalization duration did not change, yet postoperative follow-up was shorter, and more patients were lost to follow up. Despite these stressors, outcomes remained excellent in most children.
Level of Evidence:
Level III—Retrospective comparative study.