Humeral Condylar Fractures


Why Should I Bring my Pet to Willows for Treatment of a Humeral Condylar Fracture?

Willows is one of Europe’s leading small animal Orthopaedic referral centres treating over 1000 new patients a year. Our state-of-the-art hospital is led by internationally renowned Certified Specialists committed to providing the highest standards of care.

Our team of Orthopaedic Specialists have considerable collective experience of repairing pets with humeral condylar fractures. Humeral condylar fractures can be some of the most challenging fractures to repair and so this experience is invaluable to a pets care.


What is a Humeral Condylar Fracture?

The humeral condyle is the name given to the end of the bone at the top of the front leg. The humeral condyle, together with the two bones of the forearm (radius and ulna) makes up the elbow joint. When the humeral condyle breaks, the elbow joint is fractured and will not work properly. Fractures of the elbow joint are amongst the most common type of broken bone seen in dogs; they rarely occur in cats.

What are the Common Causes of a Humeral Condyle Fracture?

In young dogs that jump down from a height, the force caused by landing travels up the front leg and can cause a fracture of the humeral condyle (elbow joint). In some dogs, there is an inherent weakness of the elbow joint, known as a Humeral Intracondylar Fissure (HIF), which can result in an elbow joint fracture during normal exercise. HIF is more common in spaniel breeds, such as the Springer Spaniel.

There are two forms of humeral condylar fractures that can occur:

  • Involving one-side of the condyle (unicondylar) with the outside of the forearm being more frequently involved than the inside
  • In some dogs both sides of the condyle (dicondylar) can fracture into a ‘Y’ or ‘T’ shape.

What are the Signs of a Humeral Condylar Fracture?

Most pets develop a sudden onset severe to non-weight bearing lameness and pain in the affected elbow. Swelling is likely to develop at the affected elbow joint. Pets who have a HIF may have a period of progressive lameness in the front leg prior to the humeral condyle fracturing.

Fig 1: Fracture of the outside (lateral) aspect of the humeral condyle repaired with a plate and screws


How are Humeral Condylar Fractures Diagnosed?

Examination of a patient should allow for straightforward detection of a humeral condylar fracture. In some pets, in particular young puppies, elbow pain is identified, but the presence of a fracture may not be obvious. In all patients X-rays of the elbow enable the diagnosis of a humeral condylar fracture to be made. Occasionally, advanced imaging, such as a CT scan of both elbow joints is required. A CT scan can provide additional information such as the presence of a HIF in the pets other elbow and can help in planning the fracture repair required.

Fig 2: Severe fracture of the humeral condyle repaired with two plates and multiple screws


What Treatments are Available for Humeral Condylar Fractures?

Surgery is required to treat humeral condylar fractures. As the elbow joint is fractured the broken pieces of the humeral condyle need to be pieced back together accurately, not only to allow the elbow joint to work, but also to minimise the development of osteoarthritis. The operation involves repositioning the bone fragments back into the correct place and stabilising them using implants such as screws, pins and bone plates that are placed through surgical incisions and secured to the bone.


HeadingWhat can I Expect if my Pet is Treated for a Humeral Condylar Fracture?

Most dogs are very comfortable following surgery and are able to go home the next day with only a light dressing. They can start walk and place weight on the limb within a day or two, off the lead exercise such as running or jumping must be avoided until after the follow up examination. Painkillers are given for a few weeks to ensure the pet is comfortable, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy are often recommended. For pets that have undergone surgery they will need to be taken to their local Vet for a check-up at one week and then after two weeks to have stiches removed. Willows will then plan to see your pet for reassessment after six weeks when follow up X-rays may be taken.

In the long-term the outlook for pets with unicondylar fractures is generally good. Dicondylar fractures are much more demanding to treat, our experienced team of Specialists are involved in the development of new techniques for operating on these fractures, and so despite complexity, results are generally very good. It should be remembered that as humeral condylar fractures involve the elbow joint, some degree of osteoarthritis will develop. In some pets residual lameness can remain a feature.

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