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Executive Editor: Peter Trafton

Authors: Kodi Kojima, Steve Velkes

Proximal forearm 21-B3.3 ORIF

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1 General considerations top

Preliminary remarks

Elbow instability is a frequent problem with 21-B3.3 injuries. With complex proximal ulnar fractures, both olecranon and coronoid, if involved, must be reduced and fixed. In this setting, a coronoid fracture is typically large and can be reduced while seen through the olecranon fracture. Then the olecranon is fixed. If the radial neck fracture is simple, and easy to reduce, it might be fixed initially, to guide reduction of the ulnar fractures.

Anatomical reduction and stable fixation of both fractures are desirable for 21-B3.3 fractures. Begin by exposing both fractures.  Difficulty in reducing either fracture may be caused by malreduction of the fracture in the other bone.

Stability of the elbow must be confirmed at the conclusion of reduction and fixation. If instability remains, supplementary external fixation may be necessary.


Compression plate principles

In transverse fractures compression can only be achieved using a preloaded plate. Slight overbending of the plate is necessary to ensure compression of the far cortex. Sequence of screw insertion:

  • The first screw should be inserted in neutral position.
  • A second screw is inserted eccentrically into the opposite fragment.

2 Reduction and preliminary fixation top

Cleaning the fracture site

Expose the fracture ends with minimal soft tissue dissection off the bone.

Remove hematoma and irrigate.

Reduction can be achieved by direct or indirect reduction techniques.


Direct reduction

Reduce the fracture with the help of two small pointed reduction forceps...


...and provisonally fix it with two K-wires or reduction clamps.


Reduction with a plate

Fix the contoured and prebent plate with one screw to the proximal fragment. Then reduce the distal fragment against plate and proximal fragment by manipulation of the distal ulna, possibly aided by a clamp outside the fracture site. Final adjustment of the screw may affect reduction, and may be delayed until a screw is placed in the distal fragment.

In minimally displaced fractures this reduction might be achieved indirectly.

3 Plate preparation top


Implant choice

Use a six hole plate. Usually, three screws in each fragment provide sufficient stability.

The plate may be a small fragment (3.5 mm) dynamic compression plate (DCP), a limited contact dynamic compression plate (LC-DCP), or a locking plate (LCP) with conventional screws.

In osteoporotic bone there is an indication for the use of a an LCP in combination with locking head screws.


Contouring the plate

Contour the plate according to the surface anatomy of the ulna. Place a slight convex bend over the fracture to ensure compression of the opposite cortex.

Contour the plate with bending irons or bending press.

4 Creating compression top


Apply a 3.5 mm cortical screw in neutral position into the proximal fragment next to the fracture.

Insert a 3.5 mm cortical screw in eccentric position into the distal fragment, next to the fracture, creating compression across the fracture.

5 Finish fixation top


Insert the rest of the screws in neutral position.

An interim assessment of alignment, stability and range of motion is advisable after fixation of the ulna. Check results with image intensifier or x-ray.

6 Final assessment top

Finally, after fixing both radius and ulna, assess the range of motion in pronation, supination, flexion and extension. Fixation should be stable and crepitus or restricted motion should be absent. Radiocapitellar and ulnohumeral joints should remain located through a full range of motion.

Check results with image intensifier or x-ray.

v1.0 2007-10-14