Early Results of Single-plug Autologous Osteochondral Grafting for Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Capitellum in Adolescents

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Abstract

Background:

Osteochondral autologous transplantation surgery (OATS) has been advocated for unstable osetochondritis dissecans (OCD) lesions of the adolescent capitellum, though limited information is available regarding clinical and radiographic results in North American patients. We hypothesize that single-plug OATS is safe and effective in alleviating pain and restoring function in unstable OCD.

Methods:

Twenty-eight patients with unstable OCD treated with single-plug OATS were evaluated. Mean age at surgery was 14.2 years; there were 14 males. Etiology of OCD was presumed to be sports participation, including baseball (n=5) and gymnastics (n=11). Indications for surgery included unstable, deep OCD lesions; 2 lesions were uncontained, and 3 patients (11%) had OATS after failed prior surgery. OATS was performed by an anconeus muscle-splitting approach; donor grafts were harvested from the lateral femoral condyle by small arthrotomy. Functional outcomes were quantified using the Timmerman instrument. Median clinical and radiographic follow-up was 6.3 months (range, 5.0 to 27.0 mo) and 5.7 months (range, 5.0 to 26.7 mo), respectively. Furthermore, all patients returned functional questionnaires at a median of 9 months postoperatively (range, 5 to 27 mo).

Results:

Of the 26 patients who reported preoperative tenderness, 19 (73%) patients had no tenderness at most recent clinical follow-up (P=0.02). Of 18 patients with restricted elbow motion preoperatively, 13 had achieved full range of motion (P=0.10). Both elbow flexion and extension improved significantly [flexion: median change (interquartile range)=10 degrees (0 to 10 degrees), P=0.009; extension: 0 degree (−5 to 0 degrees), P <0.001). On postoperative magnetic resonance imaging, 86% (P<0.001) of elbows had restoration of articular congruity and 93% had complete graft incorporation. Objective [median change (interquartile range)=5 degrees (0 to 15 degrees)], subjective [25 degrees (15 to 40 degrees)], and overall [35 degrees (15 to 45 degrees)] Timmerman scores improved significantly (P=0.001, <0.001, and <0.001, respectively). Of the 13 patients with >6 months follow-up, 9 patients (69%) had returned to their primary sport (P=0.27) and 100% had returned to general sports participation. There were no postoperative complications. At final follow-up, all donor knees were asymptomatic with full motion and strength.

Conclusion:

Single-plug OATS is safe and effective in improving pain and elbow function in adolescents with unstable OCD, with high return to sports rates and little donor-site morbidity.

Level of Evidence:

Level IV—case series.

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