Ulnar Nerve Injury in Pediatric Midshaft Forearm Fractures: A Case Series

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Abstract

Objectives:

To describe a midshaft forearm fracture pattern that places the ulnar nerve at risk in the pediatric population and provide 7 clinical case examples describing the injury pattern and treatment methods.

Design:

Retrospective observational case series, review of literature, cadaver dissection, and treatment recommendations.

Setting:

Multi-institutional, Southeast United States.

Patients:

Seven pediatric patients (5 male and 2 female) with mean age of 8.7 years (range, 3–14) who sustained a significantly displaced closed, or grade I open, middle to distal one-third both-bone forearm fracture with subsequent ulnar nerve dysfunction.

Interventions:

Manual reduction and casting of both-bone forearm shaft fractures, operative debridement, fracture fixation, nerve exploration, neurolysis, nerve repair, and nerve grafting.

Main Outcome Measurements:

Radiographic fracture union, clinical ulnar nerve motor and sensory function testing, along with selective electric nerve testing and advanced imaging were monitored throughout follow-up postinjury.

Results:

Five of 7 patients underwent surgical treatment and 2 others were treated with conservative measures. The ulnar nerve was entrapped within the fracture site of one patient with an open fracture along with partial nerve transection, and 4 patients were found to have the nerve encased in hypertrophic scar tissue or bony callus upon surgical exploration at 3–12 months postinjury.

Conclusions:

The ulnar nerve lies in a precarious position in the middle to distal one-third forearm and is bound by anatomic constraints that place the nerve at risk of injury. This article offers a treatment algorithm that includes conservative treatment, acute exploration, early exploration (≤3 months), and late exploration (>3 months).

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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