[Clinical outcome of surgical treatment of terrible triad of elbow]

Bao-Tong Xun, Run-Lin Zhi, Yuan Lin, Tie-Bing Qu
Zhongguo Gu Shang, China Journal of Orthopaedics and Traumatology 2010, 23 (9): 650-3

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the clinical outcome of surgical treatment of the posterior dislocation of the elbow with coroniod and radial head fractures.

METHODS: From January 2004 to March 2009, 9 patients with terrible triad of the elbow were reviewed. There were 7 males and 2 females (4 left elbows and 5 right elbows), with an average age of 41.2 years, ranged from 21 to 67 years. The radial head fractures were classified according to the Schatzker-Tile criteria: 4 patients had the fractures of type I, 3 patients had type II and 2 patients had type III. The ulnar coronoid fractures were classified according to the Regan-Morrey criteria: 2 patients had the fractures of type I, 5 patients had type II and 2 patients had type III. The general approach was used to repair the damaged structures sequentially from deep to superficial, through coronoid, anterior capsule, radial head, and lateral ligament complex to common extensor origin. If there was valgus instability in the elbow after the operation, the medial collateral ligament should be repaired with nonabsorption sutures. The plaster was applied for 7 to 10 days with elbow flexion in 90 degrees and the forearm in full pronation. Unrestricted motions and rehabilitation began at the 8th week after operation. Recovery of regular occupation depended on the degree of physical activity required, and it typically took 3 months for heavy physical laborers to return to work.

RESULTS: All the patients were followed up from 6 months to 5 years, with a mean duration of (31 +/- 6) months. At the 3rd month after operation, the mean rang of motion in flexion and extension of the elbow was (102 +/- 3) degrees (ranged from 80 degrees to 110 degrees), and the mean range of motion in pronation and supination of the forearm was (135 +/- 6) degrees (100 degrees to 150 degrees). According to the criteria of the Mayo scoreing system, the results were excellent in 5 cases, good in 3 cases, and fair in 1 case. Three patients had heterotopic ossification at the 6th month after operation. Among them, 2 patients had no effects on elbow function and were not treated, 1 patient had effects on flexion-extension of the elbow and was treated with resection of heterotopic ossification through lateral approach combined with early rehabilitation, the MEP score of the patient improved from fair to good.

CONCLUSION: The key points for treating the terrible triad of the elbow are to restore the elbow normal anatomy and early rehabilitation to avoid the elbow stiff.

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