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Terrible triad injury of the elbow: current concepts

Paul K Mathew, George S Athwal, Graham J W King
Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 2009, 17 (3): 137-51
19264707
Fracture-dislocations of the elbow remain among the most difficult injuries to manage. Historically, the combination of an elbow dislocation, a radial head fracture, and a coronoid process fracture has had a consistently poor outcome; for this reason, it is called the terrible triad. An elbow dislocation associated with a displaced fracture of the radial head and coronoid process almost always renders the elbow unstable, making surgical fixation necessary. The primary goal of surgical fixation is to stabilize the elbow to permit early motion. Recent literature has improved our understanding of elbow anatomy and biomechanics along with the pathoanatomy of this injury, thereby allowing the development of a systematic approach for treatment and rehabilitation. Advances in knowledge combined with improved implants and surgical techniques have contributed to better outcomes.

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