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Fishtail deformity (elbow)

Last revised by Dr Henry Knipe on 06 Oct 2021

Fishtail deformity of the elbow is characterized by a contour abnormality of the distal humerus, which develops when the lateral trochlear ossification centers fail to develop or resorbs 1,2

Pathology

It is a rare complication that can develop following a distal humeral fracture (e.g. supracondylar fractures, humeral condylar fractures) in childhood but can also develop with central physeal arrest 3

Treatment and prognosis

Whilst initially presumed to be a benign condition, long-term follow-up suggests that patients with fishtail deformity are prone to 1,2:

  • functional impairment
  • ongoing pain
  • development of early osteoarthrosis

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: post supracondylar fracture
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