The use of ultrasound for monitoring reduction and ulnar nerve subluxation in pediatric humeral supracondylar fractures

Chien An Shih, Ming Tung Huang, Tai Chang Chern, Chung Jung Shao, Kuo Chen Wu, Chii Jeng Lin, I. Ming Jou, Po Ting Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Traditional treatment for displaced humeral supracondylar fractures (SCFs) in children involves closed reduction (CR) under fluoroscopic guidance, percutaneous pinning, and immobilization with a long-arm cast. This study aims to explore the viability of using radiation-free ultrasound (US) for guiding CR and tracking ulnar nerve dynamics during medial pinning, contrasting the US method with the conventional cross pinning technique. Materials and methods: We assessed 70 children with acute displaced SCFs. The US group (n = 30) underwent US-guided reduction, whereas the traditional group (n = 40) underwent fluoroscopy-guided reduction. Both groups received percutaneous cross pinning and subsequent cast immobilization. Postoperative outcomes were compared between the two methods after a 6-month follow-up. In the US group, ultrasonography assessed fracture displacement distances before and after CR. The angle at which the ulnar nerve relocated to the cubital tunnel during elbow extension was documented using real-time US monitoring during medial pinning. Results: The US group demonstrated improved reduction accuracy, increased range of motion, superior restoration of both Baumann and Humeroulnar angles, and a decreased incidence of malunions compared to the traditional group (all p < 0.05). The ultrasonographic measurement of fracture displacement was comparable with that of fluoroscopy (intraclass correlation coefficient > 0.90). In the US group, no ulnar nerve injury was noted, compared to 2.5 % in the traditional group, and real-time US observations revealed ulnar nerve hypermobility, with 53.3 % of patients exhibiting anterior ulnar nerve subluxation at 120° elbow flexion, 40 % at 90°, 16.7 % at 60°, and none at 30° flexion. Conclusion: Ultrasound is as reliable as fluoroscopy for evaluating fracture reductions. The use of intra-operative ultrasound significantly improves reduction accuracy and radiographic outcomes while reducing the risk of ulnar nerve injury.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111201
JournalEuropean Journal of Radiology
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Jan

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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