Background: Closed reduction and percutaneous pin fixation is the treatment of choice for completely displaced (type-III) extension supracondylar fractures of the humerus in children, although controversy persists regarding the optimal pin-fixation technique. The purpose of this study was to compare the efficacy of lateral entry pin fixation with that of medial and lateral entry pin fixation for the operative treatment of completely displaced extension supracondylar fractures of the humerus in children.
Methods: This prospective, randomized clinical trial had sufficient power to detect a 10% difference in the rate of loss of reduction between the two groups. The techniques of lateral entry and medial and lateral entry pin fixation were standardized in terms of the pin location, the pin size, the incision and position of the elbow used for medial pin placement, and the postoperative course. The primary study end points were a major loss of reduction and iatrogenic ulnar nerve injury. Secondary study end points included radiographic measurements, clinical alignment, Flynn grade, elbow range of motion, function, and complications.
Results: The lateral entry group (twenty-eight patients) and the medial and lateral entry group (twenty-four patients) were similar in terms of mean age, sex distribution, and preoperative displacement, comminution, and associated neurovascular status. No patient in either group had a major loss of reduction. There was no significant difference between the rates of mild loss of reduction, which occurred in six of the twenty-eight patients treated with lateral entry and one of the twenty-four treated with medial and lateral entry (p = 0.107). There were no cases of iatrogenic ulnar nerve injury in either group. There were also no significant differences (p > 0.05) between groups with respect to the Baumann angle, change in the Baumann angle, humerocapitellar angle, change in the humerocapitellar angle, Flynn grade, carrying angle, elbow flexion, elbow extension, total elbow range of motion, return to function, or complications.
Conclusions: With use of the specific techniques employed in this study, both lateral entry pin fixation and medial and lateral entry pin fixation are effective in the treatment of completely displaced (type-III) extension supracondylar fractures of the humerus in children.
Level of evidence: Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.