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Medial Humeral Condyle Fracture Workup

  • Author: John J Walsh, IV, MD; Chief Editor: Harris Gellman, MD  more...
 
Updated: Feb 10, 2016
 

Laboratory Studies

No laboratory tests are indicated for the diagnosis of a fracture, though they may be necessary for preoperative clearance.[29]

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Imaging Studies

Diagnosis is usually based on standard anteroposterior (AP) and lateral radiographs of the affected elbow (see the images below).[8, 16, 29, 30]

Anteroposterior view of displaced medial epicondyl Anteroposterior view of displaced medial epicondyle fracture.
Elbow dislocation associated with medial epicondyl Elbow dislocation associated with medial epicondyle fracture. In this lateral view, fragment is marked with circle.

Distinguishing a fracture of the medial epicondyle (see the image below) from a fracture of the medial condyle can be difficult in the developing elbow.[2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 30] Because cartilaginous structures are usually not visible radiographically, the exact location of injury may not be obvious. With its complicated and variable pattern of ossification, trauma to this region presents a difficult diagnostic challenge.

Medial epicondyle fracture. Medial epicondyle fracture.

Because the medial epicondyle lies largely outside the joint capsule, fractures of this structure usually do not produce distention of the joint capsule. Therefore, if a positive fat-pad sign accompanies soft-tissue swelling, fracture extension distally into the joint capsule to include the trochlear ossification center and medial condyle should be considered.

Radiographic clues to unstable medial condyle fracture in a young child include soft-tissue swelling, a chip or flake of bone from the metaphysis, and the presence of a positive fat-pad sign.[30]

In slightly displaced or nondisplaced fractures of the medial epiphysis, widening or irregularity of the apophyseal physis may be the only sign. If the medial epiphysis is absent, the fragment may be incarcerated totally into the joint or hidden by the overlying ulnar or distal humerus.

The lack of a fat-pad sign cannot be used to exclude medial condyle injury. If the joint capsule is ruptured, no fat-pad sign is exhibited. Therefore, it may be necessary to examine the elbow under anesthesia to determine whether instability is present that would indicate a more extensive injury.

A widely displaced fracture-separation of the medial epicondyle in a patient whose trochlear ossification center has not yet appeared can indicate that the cartilaginous trochlea may also be fractured and attached to the epicondyle. This possibility should be considered and may warrant surgical exploration.

Arthrography may be used to determine the extent of a fracture and to help distinguish an epicondyle fracture from a condyle fracture.[31]

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to evaluate soft-tissue injury and may be helpful in evaluating cartilaginous injury.

Interobserver and intraobserver reliability is poor for the use of plain radiography to assess epicondyle displacement.[32] Three-dimensional computed tomography (CT) is a more accurate means of evaluating displacement of an epicondylar fragment; indeed, plain films may underestimate displacement by up to 1 cm.[33]

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

John J Walsh, IV, MD Professor and Chairman, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of South Carolina School of Medicine

John J Walsh, IV, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Christian Medical and Dental Associations, American Society for Surgery of the Hand

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Joseph P Rectenwald, MD Orthopaedic Associates of Augusta, PA

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Michael Yaszemski, MD, PhD Associate Professor, Departments of Orthopedic Surgery and Bioengineering, Mayo Foundation, Mayo Medical School

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Harris Gellman, MD Consulting Surgeon, Broward Hand Center; Voluntary Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Plastic Surgery, Departments of Orthopedic Surgery and Surgery, University of Miami, Leonard M Miller School of Medicine; Clinical Professor of Surgery, Nova Southeastern School of Medicine

Harris Gellman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Orthopaedic Association, American Society for Surgery of the Hand, Arkansas Medical Society, Florida Medical Association, Florida Orthopaedic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Jegan Krishnan, MBBS, FRACS, PhD Professor, Chair, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Flinders University of South Australia; Senior Clinical Director of Orthopedic Surgery, Repatriation General Hospital; Private Practice, Orthopaedics SA, Flinders Private Hospital

Jegan Krishnan, MBBS, FRACS, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: Australian Medical Association, Australian Orthopaedic Association, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

Lee A Patterson, MD Orthopedic Surgeon, Carolina Bone and Joint Clinic, PA

Lee A Patterson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association and South Carolina Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

References
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Schematic of two types of medial condyle fractures, as described by Milch.
Medial epicondyle fracture.
Displacement patterns as described by Kilfoyle.
Valgus levering force creating fracture.
Olecranon acting as a wedge and creating medial condyle fracture.
Medial condyle fracture caused by traction through flexor pronator origin.
Epicondyle fractures can be caused by traction forces.
Positioning for valgus stress radiograph.
Anteroposterior view of displaced medial epicondyle fracture.
Anteroposterior view of displaced medial epicondyle fracture after reduction.
Elbow dislocation associated with medial epicondyle fracture. In this lateral view, fragment is marked with circle.
Elbow dislocation associated with medial epicondyle fracture. Lateral view after reduction. Reduced fragment is marked. Note normal location somewhat posteriorly on distal humerus.
Elbow dislocation associated with medial epicondyle fracture. Anteroposterior view after fixation.
Attachment of medial collateral ligament components is pictured.
 
 
 
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