Surgical management of elbow dislocation associated with non-reparable fractures of the radial head

M Winter, C Chuinard, A Cikes, C Pelegri, N Bronsard, F de Peretti
Chirurgie de la Main 2009, 28 (3): 158-67

BACKGROUND: The "terrible triad" of the elbow is the combination of an elbow dislocation, radial head and a coronoid process fracture. Because of a combined sagittal, frontal and transverse instability, these injuries are notoriously difficult to treat. We report our results with a technique for reconstruction of "terrible triad" injuries with either no facture or a type I fracture of the coronoid process in addition to a non-reparable radial head fracture. The hypothesis of this study was that standard surgical treatment of this lesion using a "deep to superficial" stabilisation by a single lateral approach and radial head replacement enables early and reliable functional results.

PATIENTS: From June 2004 to January 2007, 13 patients with an average age of 40 years at the date of trauma (range 18-77) underwent reconstruction of a "terrible triad" injury of the elbow with the same technique. The mean follow-up was 25 months (range 15-48).

RESULTS: Eighty-four percent of the patients were very satisfied and satisfied. Average flexion was 131 degrees (110-140). Average extension was -11 degrees (-30-0). Average pronation was 72 degrees (40-80). Average supination was 70 degrees (50-80). The grip strength averaged 75% of that of the non-injured side (50-105). All elbows were stable at review. Eight complications occurred.

CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that some terrible triad injuries can be successfully managed with deep to superficial stabilisation by lateral approach, consisting in three-dimensional stabilisation done by anterior capsular reinsertion with absorbable anchors, radial head replacement and lateral collateral ligament repair. This standard management provides enough stability to allow early active rehabilitation, preventing post-operative instability and stiffness. This procedure appears to be reliable and reproducible.

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