Complications and range of motion of patients with an elbow dislocation treated with a hinged external fixator: a retrospective cohort study

Bart Van Tunen, Esther M.M. Van Lieshout, Konrad Mader, Dennis Den Hartog*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Elbow dislocations are at risk for persistent instability and stiffness of the joint. Treatment with a hinged external fixation provides elbow joint stability, and allows early mobilization to prevent stiffness. Mounting a hinged elbow fixator correctly, however, is technically challenging. The low incidence rate of elbow dislocations with persistent instability suggests that centralization would result in higher surgeon exposure and consequently in less complications. This study aimed to investigate the results of treatment of elbow dislocations with a hinged elbow fixator on the rate of complications, range of motion, level of pain and restrictions in activities of daily living. Methods: A retrospective observational cohort study in a level I trauma center, in which the majority of patients was treated by a dedicated elbow surgeon, was performed. All patients of 16 years or older treated with a hinged external elbow fixator between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2017 were included. The fixator could be used (1) for the treatment of persistent instability in acute/residual simple and complex dislocations or (2) as revision surgery to treat joint incongruency or a stiff elbow. Patient and injury characteristics, details on treatment, complications, secondary interventions, and range of motion were extracted from the patients’ medical files. Results: The results of treatment of 34 patients were analyzed with a median follow-up of 13 months. The fixator was removed after a median period of 48 days. Fixator-related complications encountered were six pintract infections, one redisclocation, one joint incongruency, one muscle hernia, and one hardware failure. The median range of motion at the end of follow-up was 140° flexion, 15° constraint in extension, 90° pronation, and 80° supination. Conclusion: A hinged elbow fixator applied by a dedicated elbow surgeon in cases of elbow instability after elbow dislocations can result in excellent joint function. Fixator-related complications are mostly mild and only temporary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4889-4896
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery
Issue number6
Early online date25 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The abstract of this paper was presented at German Congress of Orthopaedics and Traumatology (DKOU 2021), Berlin, October 26–29, 2021.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


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