Objective: To compare supination at the wrist followed by flexion at the elbow (the traditional reduction technique) to hyperpronation at the wrist in the reduction of radial head subluxations (nursemaid's elbow).
Materials and methods: This prospective, randomized study involved a consecutive sampling of children younger than 6 years of age who presented to one of two urban pediatric emergency departments and two suburban pediatric ambulatory care centers with a clinical diagnosis of radial head subluxation. Patients were randomized to undergo reduction by one of the two methods and were followed every 5 minutes for return of elbow function. The initial procedure was repeated if baseline functioning did not return 15 minutes after the initial reduction attempt. Failure of that technique 30 minutes after the initial reduction attempt resulted in a cross-over to the alternate method of reduction. The alternate procedure was repeated if baseline functioning did not return 15 minutes after the alternate procedure was attempted. If the patient failed both techniques, radiography of the elbow was performed.
Results: A total of 90 patients were enrolled in the study. Five patients were removed from further analysis secondary to a final diagnosis of fracture, 84 were reduced successfully, and 1 failed both techniques. Demographic characteristics of each group were similar. Thirty-nine of 41 patients (95%) randomized to hyper-pronation were reduced successfully on the first attempt versus 34 of 44 patients (77%) randomized to supination. Two patients in the hyperpronation group required two attempts versus 10 patients in the supination group. Hyperpronation was more successful; 40 of 41 patients (97.5%) in the hyperpronation group were reduced successfully versus 38 of 44 patients (86%) in the supination group. Of the 6 patients who crossed over from supination to hyperpronation, 5 were reduced on the first attempt and 1 was reduced on the second attempt.
Conclusions: In the reduction of radial head subluxations, the hyperpronation technique required fewer attempts at reduction compared with supination, was successful more often than supination, and was often successful when supination failed.