Transphyseal Humeral Separations: What Can We Learn? A Retrospective, Multicenter Review of Surgically Treated Patients over a 25-Year Period

Arun R. Hariharan, Christine Ho, Andrea Bauer, Charles T. Mehlman, Paul D. Sponseller, Nathan O'Hara, Mariyln Elliott, Joshua M. Abzug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Transphyseal humeral separations (TPHS) are rare injuries with only case reports and small series reported in the literature. This multicenter study aimed to assess the various patient characteristics, injury patterns, treatments, outcomes, and complications in a large series of these injuries.Methods:A retrospective review was conducted at 5 pediatric institutions to identify TPHS that were treated surgically in patients 0 to 3 years of age over a 25-year period. Patient demographics, mechanisms of injury, Child Protective Services involvement, diagnostic modalities, time to surgery, pin size and configuration, time to fracture union, and complications were recorded.Results:A total of 79 patients aged 0 to 46 months, with a mean of 17.6 months, were identified and followed for a median of 57 days postoperatively. The most common mechanism of injury was accidental trauma (n=49), followed by nonaccidental trauma (n=21), cesarean section (n=6), and vaginal delivery (n=3). Child Protective Services were involved in 30 cases (38%). Additional injuries were reported in 19 of the patients; most commonly additional fractures including the humerus, rib, and skull fractures. All patients had elbow radiographs, whereas 4 patients had an elbow ultrasound and/or a magnetic resonance imaging. Time to surgery was greater than 24 hours in 62% of patients (n=49). Intraoperatively, 87% of patients underwent an arthrogram (n=69), 78% of patients had lateral pins only (n=62), averaging utilization of 2.2 pins, and 2 patients underwent an open reduction. In total, 11 complications (14%) were noted, including decreased range of motion (n=4), cubitus varus/valgus (n=6), and need for additional surgery (n=1). No cases of avascular necrosis or physeal arrest were found. No losses of reduction were noted.Conclusions:This multicenter review provides the largest known demographic and outcomes data on TPHS. TPHS have excellent outcomes in the vast majority of patients when treated surgically. Nonaccidental trauma accounted for 27% of these injuries so it needs to remain high on the differential diagnosis.Level of Evidence:Level III - retrospective cohort study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E424-E429
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • elbow fracture
  • newborn
  • nonaccidental trauma
  • physeal fractures
  • transphyseal humeral separations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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