Treatment of Unstable Elbow Injuries with a Hinged Elbow Fixator: Subjective and Objective Results

Luigi Meccariello*, Vincenzo Caiaffa, Konrad Mader, Ante Prkic, Denise Eygendaal, Michele Bisaccia, Giuseppe Pica, Sonia Utrilla-Hernando, Roberta Pica, Giuseppe Rollo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Introduction: Injuries around the elbow pose a challenging problem for orthopaedic surgeons. The complex bony architecture of the joint should be restored and the thin soft tissue envelope needs to be handled with meticulous care. Elbow instability is a complication seen after dislocations and fractures of the elbow and remains a treatment challenge. The purpose of this study was to provide subjective and objective results following the surgical treatment of unstable elbow dislocations with an external hinged fixation technique. Methods: Forty-six consecutive patients with complex trauma of the elbow with instability after ligament reconstruction were enrolled between January 2017 and December 2019. The parameters used to quantify the subjective and objective functional results were the Mayo Elbow Score (MES, objective) and Oxford Elbow Score (OES, subjective), and clinical stability of the elbow joint. We also performed a radiological follow-up of the fractures. Results: The mean MES and OES scores were good at the 12-month follow-up. We had 38 patients with stable joints and 8 patients with minor instability. Using the stress test, we saw a significant difference in the affected joint under varus stress (6.7 ± 1.8 mm) compared to the healthy joint (5.8 ± 1.2 mm) laterally. Furthermore, medially the gap was significantly larger (5.8 ± 0.8 mm, treated elbow) than the contralateral gap under valgus stress (4.3 ± 0.8 mm) (p <0.001). Twenty-one complications occurred in 46 patients (46%): Seven patients had a clinical change of elbow axis: Three valgus (6%), four varus (9%); Superficial wound infection occurred in one case (2%) and ulnar nerve dysfunction in two (4%). The most common medium-term complication was post-traumatic osteoarthritis in eight cases (17%). Heterotopic ossification occurred in five patients (11%) and elbow stiffness in five cases (11%). Conclusion: The use of the hinged elbow external fixator in the treatment of complex elbow trauma is a valid therapeutic adjunct to ligamentous reconstruction showing encouraging results with acceptable complications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-73
Number of pages6
JournalStrategies in Trauma and Limb Reconstruction
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022

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