Complex Elbow Instability

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Abstract

Complex elbow instability consists of dislocation of the ulnohumeral joint with a concomitant fracture of one or several of the bony stabilizers of the elbow, including the radial head, proximal ulna, coronoid process, or distal humerus. Recurrent instability is not often associated with simple dislocation, but an improperly managed complex dislocation may be a prelude to chronic, recurrent elbow instability. Complex instability is significantly more demanding to manage than simple instability. Radial head, coronoid, and olecranon fracture associated with dislocation each must be assessed and often require surgery. Longterm outcome with surgical management of complex elbow injuries is unknown. A few published series examine combinations of different injury patterns managed with various methods. Recently, however, several well-designed prospective outcome studies have evaluated management of several different individual fracture-dislocation patterns with a unified treatment algorithm. Fixation or replacement of injured bony elements, ligamentous repair, and hinged fixation may be used to successfully manage complex elbow instability.

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