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American Association for Hand Surgery

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Temporary spanning plate across the elbow for complex fractures of the distal humerus
Ashraf Moharram, M.D., Ph.D.1, Mostafa Mahmoud, M.D., Ph.D.1, Ahmed Afifi, M.D., Ph.D.1, Mostafa Ezzat, M.D., Ph.D.1, Ahmed Lymona, M.D.2 and Mohamed Abdel-Wahed, M.D., Ph.D.1, (1)Cairo university, Cairo, Egypt, (2)Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt

Background: Open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) is the gold standard management of fractures of the distal humerus. Stable fixation to allow early mobilization is not always possible in cases with comminuted fracture patterns and bone loss, with a high failure rate. We propose augmentation of internal fixation in these unstable situations with a spanning plate across the elbow to protect the fixation construct temporarily until bone union.
Methods: Eighteen patients with complex distal humeral fractures were managed with standard ORIF technique augmented with a temporary plate spanning across the elbow as an internal fixator. Cases included were either very distal, comminuted (6 cases) or insufficiency fractures (4 cases) or revision fixation cases (8 cases). The temporary spanning plate was removed as soon as signs of early radiographic union were detected.
Results: Seventeen patients were available for final follow up at a mean 28.3 months. The spanning plate was removed after 3.4 months on average. At the final follow-up, the mean elbow total arc of motion was 86.3°. The mean Mayo Elbow Performance Score (MEPS) was 80, and the mean Quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (Q-DASH) score was 27.
Conclusion: Spanning the elbow temporarily with a plate in adjunct to standard ORIF technique is both simple and effective in achieving fracture stability and union and minimizes failure rates after fixation of comminuted, very distal fractures, osteoporotic cases, or revision fixation cases with bone loss.


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