Surgical Treatment of Chronic Elbow Dislocation Allowing for Early Range of Motion: Operative Technique and Clinical Results

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Abstract

Objectives:

To describe the surgical treatment and patient outcomes of chronic elbow dislocations.

Design:

Retrospective review.

Setting:

Two tertiary referral centers.

Patients/Participants:

All patients with surgically treated chronic elbow dislocation with no associated articular fracture from January 2009 to January 2015.

Intervention:

Review of patient demographics, injury chronicity, surgical technique, and patient outcomes.

Main Outcome Measurement:

Clinical outcomes included elbow range of motion and complications. Radiographic outcomes included the presence of heterotopic ossification. Patient-reported outcomes included the Mayo Elbow Performance Index (MEPI) and the Summary Outcome Determination (SOD).

Results:

Thirty-two patients with mean follow-up of 22 months (range, 13–41 months) were included. The mean dislocation duration was 6 months (range, 1–34 months). The mean preoperative range of motion was 8 degrees (range, 0–30 degrees). There were no infections or recurrent dislocations. One patient developed transient ulnar nerve palsy postoperatively. There were no cases of new or progressive heterotopic ossification. The mean postoperative extension was 31 degrees (range, 0–75 degrees), and the mean postoperative flexion was 132 degrees (range, 95–150 degrees); the mean final arc of motion was 101 degrees (range, 50–140 degrees). The mean postoperative MEPI was 93 (range, 70–100), and the mean SOD score was 9 (range, 6–10). Using the MEPI, 97% (31/32 patients) had good or excellent outcome. There was no difference in flexion/extension arc or MEPI scores between groups of elbows older and younger than 17 years or dislocations less or more than 3 months.

Conclusion:

This is the largest case series of surgically treated patients with chronic elbow dislocation. Using our surgical technique, 97% of patients had good or excellent outcome with a low complication rate. Open reduction of chronic elbow dislocation can be accomplished while permitting early motion with minimal recurrent dislocation risk.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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