Triceps on, alignment off? A comparison of total elbow arthroplasty component positioning with a triceps-on and a triceps-off approach

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INTRODUCTIONThis retrospective review investigates whether the triceps-on approach obtains alignment of total elbow arthroplasty implants equivalent to a triceps-off approach.METHODSThe last 30 consecutive total elbow arthroplasties performed by the senior author were reviewed to identify the approach used and pathology treated. Initially, a triceps split and reflection approach was used, then a triceps-preserving approach. Two blinded reviewers measured the component alignment in standardised radiographs. Pearson's correlation coefficient was calculated to investigate inter/intra-observer and error. The two groups were compared using an unpaired Student t-test.RESULTSThere were 13 elbows in the triceps-off group and 17 in the triceps-on group. Pearson's coefficient was 0.75 for interobserver error, 0.89 for intra-observer error. There was no statistical difference between the achieved alignment. All ulna components were flexed with a mean angle deviation of 4.5 degrees in the triceps-off group and 5.7 degrees in the triceps on. Two (15%) ulna components in the triceps-off group were placed in over 5 degrees of flexion, compared with seven (44%) in the triceps-on group.CONCLUSIONThese results demonstrate no statistical difference in the achieved alignment between the two groups. Surgeons should beware of the tendency to place the ulna component in a flexed position, especially in the triceps-on approach.

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