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Treatment of proximal ulna and olecranon fractures by dorsal plating.

OBJECTIVE: Anatomic reconstruction of proximal ulna and olecranon fractures allowing early mobilization and prevention of ulnohumeral arthritis.

INDICATIONS: Comminuted olecranon or proximal ulna fractures (including Monteggia fractures), olecranon fractures extending distally from the coronoid process, nonunions of the proximal ulna, segmental fractures of the proximal ulna extending into the shaft, fractures of the proximal ulna associated with a coronoid fracture.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Patients in poor general condition. Soft-tissue defects around the elbow preventing wound closure over the plate. Pediatric fractures with open growth plates where screws would cross the physis.

SURGICAL TECHNIQUE: Posterior approach to the elbow. Hinging the fracture site open by extension of the proximal fragment based on triceps insertion. Fracture involvement of the coronoid with a large displaced fracture fragment can generally be reduced through the fracture side. Reconstruction with temporary Kirschner wires. Fixation by placing a (precontoured) plate around the tip of the olecranon with a long intramedullary screw and orthogonal (uni)cortical screws in the shaft. Radial head pathology can be addressed - if needed - through the same incision. Internal fixation, resection or prosthetic replacement of the radial head is done based on injury pattern/stability.

POSTOPERATIVE MANAGEMENT: Functional rehabilitation using active assisted range of motion of the elbow may be started immediately out of splint. Posterior splint for 7-10 days to allow wound healing.

RESULTS: Between 2003 and July 2008, 26 patients were treated with posterior plating of the proximal ulna and olecranon using this strategy. There were 23 acute fractures (of which one was referred for revision after suboptimal fixation a few days earlier), one nonunion that became traumatized, and two nascent malunions. A midline posterior approach allowed addressing both ulna and radial head pathology. The plate was contoured to wrap around the olecranon. All fractures healed. There were one postoperative infection, one transient ulnar neuropathy, one transient radial neuropathy, and one nonresolving ulnar/median neuropathy in a complex upper extremity injury. At follow-up after an average of 18 months, range of motion was on average 132 degrees /18 degrees of flexion/extension, and 75 degrees /70 degrees of pronation/supination. All fractures had healed at an average of 4.8 months. Ten patients had their hardware removed.

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