Supracondylar elbow fracture management (Supra Man) : a national trainee collaborative evaluation of practice

Bone Joint J. 2023 Jan;105-B(1):82-87. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.105B1.BJJ-2022-1074.R1.


Aims: Management of displaced paediatric supracondylar elbow fractures remains widely debated and actual practice is unclear. This national trainee collaboration aimed to evaluate surgical and postoperative management of these injuries across the UK.

Methods: This study was led by the South West Orthopaedic Research Division (SWORD) and performed by the Supra Man Collaborative. Displaced paediatric supracondylar elbow fractures undergoing surgery between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2019 were retrospectively identified and their anonymized data were collected via Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap).

Results: A total of 972 patients were identified across 41 hospitals. Mean age at injury was 6.3 years (1 to 15), 504 were male (52%), 583 involved the left side (60%), and 538 were Gartland type 3 fractures (55%). Median time from injury to theatre was 16 hours (interquartile range (IQR) 6.6 to 22), 300 patients (31%) underwent surgery on the day of injury, and 91 (9%) underwent surgery between 10:00 pm and 8:00 am. Overall, 910 patients (94%) had Kirschner (K)-wire) fixation and these were left percutaneous in 869 (95%), while 62 patients (6%) had manipulation under anaesthetic (MUA) and casting. Crossed K-wire configuration was used as fixation in 544 cases (59.5%). Overall, 208 of the fixation cases (61%) performed or supervised by a paediatric orthopaedic consultant underwent lateral-only fixation, whereas 153 (27%) of the fixation cases performed or supervised by a non-paediatric orthopaedic consultant used lateral-only fixation. In total, 129 percutaneous wires (16%) were removed in theatre. Of the 341 percutaneous wire fixations performed or supervised by a paediatric orthopaedic consultant, 11 (3%) underwent wire removal in theatre, whereas 118 (22%) of the 528 percutaneous wire fixation cases performed or supervised by a non-paediatric orthopaedic consultant underwent wire removal in theatre. Four MUA patients (6%) and seven K-wire fixation patients (0.8%) required revision surgery within 30 days for displacement.

Conclusion: The treatment of supracondylar elbow fractures in children varies across the UK. Patient cases where a paediatric orthopaedic consultant was involved had an increased tendency for lateral only K-wire fixation and for wire removal in clinic. Low rates of displacement requiring revision surgery were identified in all fixation configurations.Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2023;105-B(1):82-87.

Keywords: Elbow; Fracture; Humerus; K-wire fixation; Kirschner (K)-wires; Orthopaedic Research; Paediatric orthopaedic; Supracondylar; anaesthetic; deep infection; elbow; randomized controlled trial; revision surgery; supracondylar elbow fractures.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Wires
  • Child
  • Elbow Fractures*
  • Female
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal
  • Humans
  • Humeral Fractures* / surgery
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome