Metallic Radial Head Arthroplasty Improves Valgus Stability of the Elbow

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The stabilizing influence of radial head arthroplasty was studied in eight medial collateral ligament deficient anatomic specimen elbows. An elbow testing apparatus, which used computer controlled pneumatic actuators to apply tendon loading, was used to simulate active elbow flexion. The motion pathways of the elbow were measured using an electromagnetic tracking device, with the forearm in supination and pronation. As a measure of stability, the maximum varus to valgus laxity over the range of elbow flexion was determined from the difference between varus and valgus gravity loaded motion pathways. After transection of the medial collateral ligament, the radial head was excised and replaced with either a silicone or one of three metallic radial head prostheses. Medial collateral ligament transection caused a significant increase in the maximum varus to valgus laxity to 18.0° ± 3.2°. After radial head excision, this laxity increased to 35.6° ± 10.3°. The silicone implant conferred no increase in elbow stability, with a maximum varus to valgus laxity of 32.5° ± 15.5°. All three metallic implants improved the valgus stability of the medial collateral ligament deficient elbow, providing stability similar to the intact radial head. The use of silicone arthroplasty to replace the radial head in the medial collateral ligament deficient elbow must be questioned. Metallic radial head arthroplasty provides improved valgus stability, approaching that of an intact radial head.

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