Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School
2Hand and Upper Extremity Service. Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Anatomically precontoured locking plates are intended to facilitate the fixation of articular fractures and particularly those associated with osteoporosis. Fractures of the distal humerus are relatively uncommon injuries where operative intervention can be exceptionally challenging. The distal humeral trochlea provides a very narrow anatomical window through which to pass a fixed-angle locking screw, which must also avoid the olecranon, coronoid, and radial fossae. We describe 3 patients (ages 27, 49, and 73 years) with a bicolumnar fracture of the distal humerus where very short distal locking screws were used. Intra-articular screw placement was avoided but loss of fixation occurred in two patients and a third was treated with a prolonged period of immobilization. We postulate that fixed-angle screw trajectories may make it difficult for the surgeon to place screws of adequate length in this anatomically confined region, and may lead to insufficient distal fixation. Surgical tactics should include placement of as many screws as possible into the distal fragment, as long as possible, and that each screw pass through a plate without necessarily locking in.