Elbow injuries in childhood.

Weise K, Schwab E, Scheufele TM. Unfallchirurg 1997 Apr;100(4):255-69

Fractures and dislocations of the elbow are some of the most common injuries in childhood and adolescence. The majority occur in sport and play activities, e.g., a fall from gymnastics apparatus or a bike, or from popular sports items, such as skateboards or in-line skates. The injuries can be divided into pure dislocations of the joint and fractures of the distal humerus, proximal radius and ulna, or combinations of both. In addition, extra- and intraarticular fracture types are defined, with the latter as partial or complete joint lesions. Dislocations of the elbow joint or the radial head can occur as single injuries or in combination with a fracture. Supracondylar fractures and avulsion fractures of the medial epicondyle are the most frequent extraarticular lesions of the distal humerus. Fractures of the lateral condyle prevail is incomplete intraarticular lesions. In the forearm, radial head and neck fractures are predominant while typical and atypical Monteggia injuries have a special status. The complex joint construction and the age-dependent appearance of the epiphyseal ossification centers sometimes make a correct radiological diagnosis difficult. The trauma history and an exact, clinical examination help to verify the injury, as do comparative X-ray studies of the uninjured side when necessary (but not routinely). Unlike other anatomical areas, most elbow injuries-even in the growing skeleton-are treated operatively. Hereby, the growth plates have to be respected using minimal amounts of small implants. Additional immobilization in a cast for 2-4 weeks is necessary in most cases but does not lead to a functional deficit-in contrast to adults. The implants should be removed as early as possible. Despite all therapeutic efforts, a significant number of late sequelae, such as malunions and functional impairment, can be seen. The rate of long-term complications increases in cases of untreated displacement of fragments or joint instability. Corrective measures are performed only in selected cases and after the growth plates are closed. Our own treatment regime is demonstrated using exemplary clinical cases of the different injuries and the results of a long-term follow-up study on sports injuries of the elbow in children. Errors in diagnosis and therapy, as well as possible complications, are pointed out.