Post-traumatic forearm nonunion in healthy skeletally immature children: A report on 15 cases

Giovanni Luigi Di Gennaro, Stefano Stilli, Giovanni Trisolino

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Background Nonunion is a rare but severe complication following forearm fracture in skeletally immature patients. The purpose of this study is to describe a case series of pediatric forearm nonunions treated at our Institute. Materials and method We retrospectively reviewed medical charts and radiographs of healthy children affected by post-traumatic nonunion of the forearm, from April 1992 to July 2015. An overall series of 15 cases was included in the study. Nonunion developed at ulna in 5 cases and at radius in 10 cases, at a mean time of 9 months (range 6–12) from fracture. Surgical treatment was performed in 14 cases out of 15. Stabilization of the nonunion was achieved with Kirschner wires (5 cases), plates (4 cases), rush rods (2 cases) and unilateral external fixator (3 cases). Iliac crest bone autograft was used in 11 cases, strut cortical bone allograft was used in 2 cases while in one case no bone graft was applied. In 2 cases an additional shortening osteotomy of the ulnar shaft was necessary to obtain adequate compression of the bone fragments. Cast immobilization was maintained for 6 to 8 weeks after surgery, then a brace was applied for further 8 to 12 weeks. Results The average follow-up was 54 months (range 12–129); nonunion healed in 14 cases (93%) at an average time of 4 months (range 2–8). One case of nonunion did not heal 12 months after surgery; other complications included: radio-ulnar fusion and radial nerve palsy (1 case), myositis ossificans at the ulna (1 case), olecranon bursitis with residual elbow stiffness (1 case). One case was treated conservatively and healed after 18 months with residual malalignment. Conclusions The present study describes the largest series of pediatric forearm nonunions in the current literature. Whether the surgical management of pediatric forearm nonunion provides satisfactory results in terms of bone healing, it may be accompanied by several complications, permanent sequelae and residual functional impairment. Any effort must be undertaken to avoid this serious complication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)724-730
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Child
  • Forearm
  • Fracture
  • Nonunion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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