Distal Humerus Hemiarthroplasty of the Elbow for Comminuted Distal Humeral Fractures in the Elderly Patient

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Background:The purpose of our study was to evaluate the objective and subjective outcomes, as well as the radiographic results after elbow hemiarthroplasty (HA) for comminuted distal humerus fractures in elderly patients.Methods:Ten female patients with a mean age of 75.2 years were treated with elbow HA either for osteoporotic, comminuted distal humerus fractures (n = 8) or for early failed osteosynthesis of distal humerus fractures (n = 2). The mean follow-up period was 12.1 months. All patients were examined and evaluated using the Mayo Elbow Performance Score and the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand score. Radiographic postoperative outcomes were assessed performing anteroposterior and lateral radiographs of the injured elbow.Results:According to the Mayo Elbow Performance Score, nine patients achieved “good” to “excellent results” and only one patient revealed a “fair” clinical outcome. The mean Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand score was 11.5 (range, 0–30). The flexion of the affected elbow was 124.5° (range, 95–140°), the extension deficit was 17.5° (range, 5–30°), the pronation was 80.5° (range, 60–90°), and the supination was 79.5° (range, 50–90°). The following postoperative complications were seen: one triceps weakness, one transient ulnar nerve irritation, one superficial wound infection, and two heterotopic ossifications. None of the patients required explantation of the prosthesis. There was no evidence of loosening, radiolucency, or proximal bone resorption, whereas one patient developed progressive osteoarthritis of the proximal ulnar and radial articulation.Conclusions:Elderly patients treated with elbow HA revealed good to excellent short-term clinical outcomes. A high rate of complications occurred but most complications found were minor and reoperation rate was low. Our results must be regarded as a report on our first experience with HA. As cartilage wear is just a question of time especially in active patients, we cautiously recommend HA only for elderly and multimorbid low-demand patients.

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