Conservative versus surgical treatment of Gartland type 2 supracondylar humeral fractures: What can help us choosing?

Carlo Iorio, Marco Crostelli, Osvaldo Mazza, Pierpaolo Rota, Vincenzo Polito, Dario Perugia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Pediatric supracondylar humeral fractures (PSHF) are most common elbow fractures among children and adolescents. While there is substantial agreement on treating type 1 and type 3 fractures (conservatively and surgically, respectively), the debate on optimal treatment of Gartland type 2 fractures is still open.We wanted to review our cases, analyzing outcomes and seeking for parameters that could help surgeons treating these injuries.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed 41 patients treated with reduction and casting (group A) and matched to 38 patients treated with closed reduction and percutaneous pining (CRPP, group B) for Gartland type 2 fractures between 2009 and 2013. At a mean follow-up of more than 6 years patients were analyzed by an accurate clinical exam and evaluation scales. Radiographic parameters at time of cast or pins removal were studied too.

Results: There were no statistically significant differences in clinical exam and evaluation scales between groups. Two patients in group A developed a cubitus varus deformity and one patient in group B had a superficial pin-tract infection. Baumann angle (BA) was out of normal range in two cases of conservative group and anterior humeral line (AHL) bisected capitellum in 42.1% of patients in group A and 73.2% in group B (p < .05).

Conclusion: It is reasonable to expect satisfactory outcomes both after conservative and surgical treatment of type 2 fractures, if cornerstones of both treatments are applied. Parameters that should be focused are probably two: complications (2 cases of cubitus varus in group A versus one superificial pin-tract infections in group B) and the better trend in surgical group in regards to loss of flexion and hyperextension of the affected elbow, likely related to the other notable datum, that is the percentage of cases in which AHL bisects capitellum. We think that, in absence of vascolonervous lesions and important swelling, BA and AHL are the most important parameters that can help us choosing the optimal treatment, as clarified in the algorithm we developed.

Level of evidence: Level III - retrospective comparative study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-35
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Orthopaedics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 22 2019


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