Functional outcomes after fixation of "terrible triad" elbow fracture dislocations

Peter G Fitzgibbons, Dexter Louie, George Sinclair Mitchell Dyer, Philip Blazar, Brandon Earp
Orthopedics 2014, 37 (4): e373-6
Historically, the published literature on "terrible triad" injuries has shown a high rate of unacceptable results. The use of systematic treatment protocols may improve functional outcome. The authors performed a retrospective study of all patients aged 18 years or older who underwent surgical treatment for "terrible triad" elbow fracture dislocation at their institution over a period 7 years. Surgical treatment involved fixation or replacement of the radial head, repair of the anterior capsule or coronoid fracture in most cases, and repair of the lateral collateral ligament. Outcomes included grip strength, range of motion, Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) questionnaire score, and a visual analog score for pain as well as radiographic assessment of arthritis, maintenance of reduction, and development of heterotopic ossification. Eighteen patients were identified and 11 enrolled. Seven patients had suture fixation of the coronoid fragment and anterior capsule, 2 had screw fixation, and 2 had no repair of the coronoid. The radial head was replaced in 9 patients and repaired in 1, and a fracture fragment was excised in another. The average follow-up was 38 months. The average arc of motion of the injured elbow was 112° and that of the contralateral elbow was 142°. The average DASH score was 19.7 (scale, 0-100). The average visual analog score for pain was 2.2 (scale, 0-10). No patients had recurrent elbow instability. Three patients underwent further surgical procedures, all for loss of motion. The authors concluded that a systematic approach to the fixation of "terrible triad" elbow fracture dislocations can provide predictable elbow stability and functional range of motion in the medium term.

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