Surgical Elbow Dislocation Approach to the Distal Humerus for Apparent Capitellar and Lateral Condyle Fractures in Adults

Benjamin W. Hoyt, Des Raj M. Clark, Sarah A. Walsh, Raymond A. Pensy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives: Access to fractures of the distal humeral capitellum, trochlea, and lateral condyle is difficult through traditional approaches due to limited anterior articular exposure for direct reduction and fixation. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the relative articular exposure of a surgical dislocation (SD) approach to the distal humerus compared with olecranon osteotomy (OO). Methods: Eight paired elbows from 4 cadavers underwent either SD or OO approach. Methylene blue staining demarcated visualized articular surface before disarticulation of the elbows. The main outcome measures were average visualized total distal humeral articular surface and anterior and posterior surface, and capitellar surface relative to the total surfaces was compared for each surgical approach using unpaired parametric t-tests. Results: Intraclass correlation between raters was 0.995. The median exposed articular surface for SD and OO approaches was 90.0% and 62.8%, respectively. The overall exposure was significantly greater for the dislocation technique (P = 0.0003). With respect to specific regions of the distal humeral articular surface, SD allowed significantly greater visualization of the anterior surface (95.9% vs. 48.9%, P, 0.0001) and capitellum (100% vs. 40.4%, P, 0.0001). Conclusion: The surgical elbow dislocation approach to the distal humerus permits near total exposure of the anterior articular surface and the entire capitellum. Our data support this approach for anterior articular fractures of the distal humerus, to include those fractures that extend to the medial surface of the trochlea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E77-E81
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Trauma
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • apparent capitellar fracture
  • articular exposure
  • comparative anatomy
  • elbow dislocation
  • surgical elbow dislocation


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