Delayed surgery leads to reduced elbow range of motion in children with supracondylar humeral fractures managed at a referral hospital in sub-Saharan Africa
Claude Kasereka Masumbuko, Edward Gakuya Mutheke, Benjamin Mbindyo, Michael T Hawkes
Background: Supracondylar humeral fractures (SHFs) in children are associated with morbidity due to elbow stiffness. Timely operative management and/or physiotherapy are thought to reduce this complication, but pose challenges in settings with limited resources for health.Methods: This prospective cohort study included 45 pediatric patients with isolated SHF at a large tertiary hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. Patients were managed non-operatively or operatively with varying wait times to surgery, with or without physiotherapy. The measurement of elbow ROM was done up to 12 weeks after removal of Kirshner wires and/or backslab.Results: Elbow ROM increased in the follow-up period, yet residual restricted mobility in the flexion-extension plane was common. Delayed surgical management ???7days was associated with reduced elbow ROM in the flexion-extension plane at 12 weeks median IQR 105?? 92??-118?? vs 120?? 108??-124??, p=0.029. Physiotherapy was associated with reduced ROM at 12 weeks p=0.003, possibly due to the use of prolonged immobilization.Conclusion: In this study of pediatric SHFs at a resource-limited hospital, elbow flexion was restricted at 12 weeks follow-up and was associated with major delays in operative management. Quality of orthopedic surgical care and physiotherapy services in low-resource settings deserves further attention.Keywords: Delayed surgery, reduced elbow range, supracondylar humeral fractures, sub-Saharan Africa.