Instability of the Elbow Treated with Semiconstrained Total Elbow Arthroplasty*


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Abstract

The results of nineteen semiconstrained modified Coonrad-Morrey total elbow arthroplasties performed in nineteen patients to treat instability were evaluated at an average of seventy-two months (range, twenty-five to 128 months) postoperatively. Preoperatively, all patients had either a flail elbow or gross instability of the elbow that prevented useful function of the extremity. The instability of sixteen elbows was the result of a traumatic injury or of the treatment of such an injury. The most recent result was satisfactory for sixteen elbows and unsatisfactory for three. The average overall Mayo elbow performance score increased from 44 points preoperatively to 86 points postoperatively.At the most recent follow-up examination, no elbow was unstable. The average arc of flexion was from 25 degrees (range, 0 to 60 degrees) to 128 degrees (range, 30 to 142 degrees), which represented a 58-degree increase from the preoperative average arc.Sixteen patients had little or no pain after the arthroplasty. There were four complications In four patients. Three complications (loosening of the humeral component in one patient and a fracture of the ulnar component in two) occurred postoperatively; all three were treated with a revision procedure. The other complication (a fracture of the olecranon) occurred intraoperatively and was treated with tension-band fixation; the most recent outcome was not affected.Radiographically, one patient had complete (type-V) radiolucency about the humeral component. None of the nine patients for whom true anteroposterior radiographs were available had evidence of wear of the bushings. The bone graft behind the anterior flange of the humeral prosthesis was mature in fourteen elbows, incomplete in two, and resorbed in two. One patient was excluded from this analysis because radiographs were not available.Instability of the elbow resulting in the inability to use the extremity is a challenging clinical situation. However, in patients who are more than sixty years old and in selected patients who are less than sixty years old but who have extensive loss of bone as a result of severe injury, have had multiple operations, or have rheumatoid arthritis, total elbow arthroplasty with a linked, semiconstrained prosthesis reestablishes a mobile, stable joint without premature loosening or failure of the components. In our experience, the use of customized implants, maintenance of the muscular attachments to the epicondyles, and reconstruction of the epicondyles to the implant were unnecessary.

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