Correction of post-traumatic flexion contracture of the elbow by anterior capsulotomy.


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Abstract

Despite prolonged conservative therapy, including splinting, bracing, and supervised exercise programs, significant flexion contracture of the elbow after local trauma may remain both a functional and a cosmetic impairment. We studied the cases of fifteen patients who underwent a relatively limited surgical procedure consisting of anterior capsulotomy of the elbow without tenotomy of the biceps tendon or myotomy of the brachialis muscle. The mean preoperative flexion deformity of 48 degrees was reduced to a mean postoperative deformity of 19 degrees (a 61 per cent improvement). Two groups of patients were identified. Eleven patients who did not have significant preoperative evidence of intra-articular degenerative (post-traumatic) changes in the joint achieved a 65 per cent improvement in extension, with one patient having continued pain with vigorous activity. Four patients who had significant preoperative post-traumatic arthrosis achieved a 50 per cent improvement in extension; however, three of these four patients continued to have significant pain. Limited anterior capsulotomy is a safe and effective means of decreasing post-traumatic flexion contracture of the elbow in properly selected patients. Better overall results are obtained in elbows without significant post-traumatic arthrosis.

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