Risk Factors for Stiffness After Surgical Treatment of Pediatric Humeral Lateral Condyle Fractures: Results of a Multicenter Study

Abhishek Tippabhatla, Beltran Torres-Izquierdo, Daniel Pereira, Rachel Goldstein, Julia Sanders, Kevin Neal, Laura Bellaire, Jaime Denning, Pooya Hosseinzadeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Pediatric humeral lateral condyle fractures are the second most common elbow fractures. Their treatment presents challenges due to physeal and intra-articular involvement. Postoperative stiffness is a common concern that can limit limb functionality. This study aims to identify risk factors for postoperative stiffness in a large cohort of these fractures across multiple institutions. Methods: A large, multicenter retrospective review of medical records from 6 level I trauma centers was conducted. Data from children aged 1 to 12 years with lateral condyle fractures treated between 2005 and 2019 were collected. Elbow stiffness was defined in the present study as having a limited elbow ROM that led to requiring a physical or occupational therapy referral or needing surgical treatment to address stiffness. Relevant patient demographics, fracture characteristics, treatment approaches, and complications were analyzed. Results: Six hundred sixty-five fractures were analyzed. The average patient age was 8.8 years with 21% experiencing stiffness. The stiffness group had older patients, a higher incidence of elbow dislocations, a higher rate of open reduction, and more severe fracture patterns. Multivariate regression analysis identified open reduction, increased age, and concurrent elbow dislocation as significant risk factors for stiffness. Patients with stiffness commonly utilized only physical or occupational therapy (96%), while a small percentage (4%) required surgical interventions. Conclusions: This study highlights the risk factors for postoperative stiffness in pediatric humeral lateral condyle fractures, namely increased age, concomitant elbow dislocation, and treatment with open reduction. Families of older patients or severe fracture patterns requiring open reduction and those with concurrent elbow instability should be counseled about their increased risk of stiffness. The authors recommend initially attempting a closed reduction in high-risk patients to help mitigate the risk of postoperative stiffness. Early initiation of range of motion exercises may also be beneficial for at-risk patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-212
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024


  • lateral humeral condyle
  • pediatric elbow fractures
  • trauma
  • upper extremity trauma


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