Outcomes of nonoperative management of displaced olecranon fractures in medically unwell patients
Surgical treatment of displaced olecranon fractures in the elderly has a high rate of complications, including wound breakdown and fixation failure. The purpose of this study was to assess the clinical, radiographic, and functional outcomes of nonsurgical management of displaced olecranon fractures in low-demand elderly and medically unwell patients. A retrospective review of 28 patients with displaced closed olecranon fractures was performed with an average follow-up of 11 months. The mean age
... at the time of injury was 79 ± 10 years. The average Charlson Comorbidity Index was 6.4 ± 2.6. Treatment modalities were at the discretion of the treating surgeon. A sling alone was used in 3 cases, an extension circumferential cast in 9, or a plaster or thermoplastic splint in 16. The mean period of immobilization was 5 ± 1 weeks. Outcomes included range of motion, ability to perform active overhead extension, as well as radiographic and functional outcomes. At final follow-up, the mean elbow range of motion for the cohort was from 28° ± 21° extension to 127° ± 15° flexion. Active overhead elbow extension against gravity was noted or documented in 24 (86%) patients. Two patients (7%) were unable to perform active extension. No pain was noted in 18 elbows, severe pain was present in 1 elbow, and the remainder reported mild occasional pain. All olecranon fractures in this cohort were displaced on the initial lateral radiograph. The mean displacement was 11 ± 7 mm. Nonunion at final radiographic outcome was observed in 23 (82%) elbows. Two (7%) patients developed skin complications related to posteriorly placed splints; one of which was severe. This study adds to the growing literature that supports nonoperative management of displaced olecranon fractures in elderly and medically unwell patients with low upper extremity demand. Patients can be counseled that they have a good chance of obtaining overhead extension, with minimal pain. Posteriorly based splints should not be used to minimize skin complications.