Supracondylar Fractures With Circulatory Failure After Reduction, Pinning, and Entrapment of the Brachial Artery: Excellent Results More Than 1 Year After Open Exploration and Revascularization

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Objectives:Neurovascular injuries in children with dislocated supracondylar humeral fractures are not uncommon. Closed reduction and pin fixation usually will restore the circulation. In some patients, there is still compromised circulation and a neurologic deficit, and they are treated with open exploration and microvascular reconstruction. We have investigated the clinical and functional outcome more than 1 year after the injury in this most serious group of patients.Design:Retrospective follow-up study.Patients:During 2001 to 2007, five patients were referred to our department with a pale, pulseless hand and circulatory impairment with absent or slow capillary refill after primary treatment with closed reduction and cross pinning at their local hospital for Gartland Type III supracondylar fractures. Two of the patients also had clinical signs of nerve injury.Intervention:All were reoperated on with open exploration and release of the entrapped brachial artery. Vascular reconstruction was performed in four patients (vasodilating agent was sufficient in one patient) and release of the median nerve from the fracture in two. One of these two also had a Kirschner wire pierced through the ulnar nerve. All fractures were rereduced and cross-pinned. No intra- or postoperative complications were seen.Outcome/Results:At follow-up more than 1 year after the injury, all patients exhibited normal and symmetric function in their upper extremities, including circulation, neurologic status, range of motion, grip strength, and key pinch strength. Clinical and radiologic appearance was normal.Conclusion:Pulseless arms after repositioning of dislocated supracondylar humeral fractures are a medical emergency. After open release and, if necessary, microvascular reconstruction of vessels and nerves, fracture reduction, and fixation, excellent clinical long-term outcome can be expected. The procedure can be carried out with a low rate of complications.

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