Distal Humerus Fracture Surgery

There are two primary options for distal humerus fracture surgery: Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF) and Total Elbow Arthroplasty (TEA).

  • Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF): In an ORIF procedure, the surgeon repositions the broken bones in their normal alignment and uses screws and plates to hold the pieces together while they heal. This is the most common surgery for distal humerus fractures and is usually recommended for younger patients with good bone quality.
  • Total Elbow Arthroplasty (TEA): In a TEA procedure, the surgeon replaces the damaged part of the elbow with a prosthetic joint. This is usually recommended for older patients with poor bone quality or those who have arthritis in addition to their fracture.

Expected Surgery Outcome

The aim of distal humerus fracture surgery is to restore as much function to the elbow as possible. After recovery, most patients can expect significant improvement in pain and range of motion. The specific outcome will depend on the severity of the fracture, the type of surgery performed, and the patient’s adherence to post-operative protocols.

Potential surgery complications and risks

Complications, though rare, can occur following distal humerus fracture surgery. These include infection, nerve injury leading to weakness or numbness, and complications related to the implants such as loosening or breakage.

Risks

  • Infection: All surgical procedures carry a risk of infection, which can lead to serious complications if not treated promptly.
  • Nerve Damage: There is a risk of damage to the nerves near the elbow, which can result in numbness or weakness.
  • Implant complications: The screws, plates, or prosthetic joint used in surgery might loosen or break over time, necessitating additional surgery.
  • Stiffness: The elbow may become stiff and lose some range of motion following surgery.

Recovery after surgery

Post-operative care is critical to successful recovery. Following surgery, patients will likely wear a splint or cast for 1 to 2 weeks to protect the repair. Physiotherapy, including range-of-motion and strengthening exercises, usually begins soon after surgery. Full recovery, including return to heavy manual work or sports, generally takes between 3 and 6 months, although this can vary based on individual circumstances.