Olecranon Osteotomy for Exposure of Fractures and Nonunions of the Distal Humerus


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Abstract

Summary:Although olecranon osteotomy provides excellent exposure of the distal humerus, enthusiasm for this approach has been limited by reports suggesting numerous complications. It has been suggested that specific techniques for creating and repairing an olecranon osteotomy may help limit complications. This paper describes a technique for olecranon osteotomy using an apex, distal, chevron-shaped osteotomy, Kirschner wires directed out the anterior ulnar cortex distal to the coronoid process and bent 180° and impacted into the olecranon proximally, and two 22- gauge, figure-of-eight, stainless steel tension wires. A single surgeon used this technique for exposure of a fracture (16 patients) or nonunion (29 patients) of the distal humerus in 45 consecutive patients. One patient returned to activity too soon, had loosening of the wire fixation, and required a second operation for plate fixation of the ulna. The remaining 44 osteotomies (98%) healed with good alignment within 6 months. There were no broken or migrated wires prior to healing. Twelve patients (27%) had removal of the wires used to repair the olecranon: in 6 patients, this was for symptoms related to the wires (13%); 1 for septic olecranon bursitis, and 5 at the time of another procedure (elbow capsular release in 4 patients and submuscular ulnar nerve transposition in 1). Olecranon osteotomy can be used for exposure of the distal humerus with a low rate of complications when specific techniques are used.

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