Anterior capsulotomy and continuous passive motion in the treatment of post-traumatic flexion contracture of the elbow. A prospective study.


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Abstract

Thirty-three patients who had a post-traumatic flexion contracture of the elbow were managed consecutively with anterior capsulotomy without tenotomy of the biceps tendon or myotomy of the brachialis muscle. The first fifteen patients (Group I) did not receive continuous passive motion postoperatively. Preoperative active extension for Group I was to an average of 48 degrees short of full extension, which improved to 19 degrees at a mean follow-up time of forty-five months. Subsequently, eighteen patients (Group II) received continuous passive motion postoperatively for a mean of six weeks. Preoperative active extension for Group II was to an average of 55 degrees short of full extension, which improved to 23 degrees at a mean duration of follow-up of thirty-five months. The mean preoperative arc of motion for Group I was 69 degrees, which improved to 94 degrees postoperatively. The mean preoperative arc of motion for Group II was 48 degrees, which improved to 95 degrees postoperatively. Five patients in Group I and six patients in Group II had severe preoperative heterotopic ossification. There was no correlation, however, between preoperative heterotopic ossification and the amount that extension of the elbow improved postoperatively. There was no postoperative increase in heterotopic ossification. Four patients in Group I and six patients in Group II had severe post-traumatic osteoarthrosis preoperatively. Anterior capsulotomy is an effective treatment of post-traumatic flexion contracture of the elbow. Although the postoperative use of continuous passive motion did not significantly improve mean active extension, it did improve active flexion and the total arc of motion.

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