January 19th, 2012 , J Hand Surg Am

Remodeling potential of phalangeal distal condylar malunions in children


Distal condylar phalangeal (DCP) fractures in children are uncommon, but their periarticular location makes them problematic. Malunions are particularly difficult to treat. These fractures are generally thought to have a poor remodeling potential because their location is far from the phalangeal physis. We present 8 cases of DCP malunion in children with a mean 5-year follow-up demonstrating consistent remodeling.


In this study, DCP fractures were defined as those occurring at or distal to the collateral ligament recess of the proximal or middle phalanx in skeletally immature patients. Radiographic parameters examined at the time of established malunion and at final follow-up included coronal and sagittal plane deformity and translational malalignment of the distal fragment in relation to the proximal shaft. Range of motion was measured, and a brief questionnaire was implemented to establish patient satisfaction.


We examined 8 patients with a minimum 1-year follow-up (mean, 5.3 y). Average age at injury was 8.8 years (range, 2-14 y). In the sagittal plane, fractures remodeled from an initial mean deformity of 30.9° to 0.0°; in the coronal plane, from 10.5° to 3.9°. Fracture translation in the sagittal plane corrected, as well, from a mean 57.5% at injury to 0.0% at final follow-up. There was no functionally limiting loss of motion of the digit in any patient. Subjectively, only 2 patients complained of cosmetic deformity, both of which were coronal plane deformities of the small finger.


In this case series, DCP malunions in children remodeled significantly and completely in the sagittal plane, and all patients had good final range of motion. Furthermore, patients were satisfied with nonsurgical treatment at long-term follow-up. This series describes the remodeling potential of DCP fractures in children, lending support to the previously reported cases. These findings support treating late-presenting pediatric DCP malunions nonsurgically.


Therapeutic IV.