Surgical Techniques and Clinical Outcomes for Medial Epicondylitis: A Systematic Review

Alfonso Arevalo, Somnath Rao, Donald P Willier, Christopher I Schrock, Brandon J Erickson, Robert A Jack, Steven B Cohen, Michael G Ciccotti
American Journal of Sports Medicine 2022 June 6, : 3635465221095565

BACKGROUND: Medial epicondylitis (ME) is a pathological condition that arises in laborers and athletes secondary to repetitive wrist flexion and forearm pronation causing degeneration of the common flexor tendon. Although nonoperative management has demonstrated high rates of success, no standardized surgical technique has been established for situations when operative management is indicated.

PURPOSE/HYPOTHESIS: The purpose of this study was to perform a systematic review of the surgical treatment options for ME and evaluate the associated patient-reported outcomes (PROs). We hypothesized that surgical management of ME would vary across studies but no technique would prove to be superior.

STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review; Level of evidence, 4.

METHODS: Searches were conducted using PubMed, EMBASE, Cumulative Index of Nursing Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), SPORTDiscus, and Cochrane databases between 1980 and April 2020. All level 1 to 4 studies were identified that focused on surgical management and PROs in the setting of ME. Description of surgical technique and PROs were required for inclusion. Investigators independently dually abstracted and reviewed the studies for eligibility. Weighted means were calculated for demographic characteristics and available PROs.

RESULTS: Overall, 851 studies were identified according to the search criteria. A total of 16 studies met the inclusion and exclusion criteria and therefore were evaluated. Three surgical techniques were found: open (13 studies), arthroscopic (2 studies), and percutaneous (1 study). Descriptions of the open technique were subdivided into those with (7 studies) and without (6 studies) common flexor tendon repair. Analysis included 479 elbows; patients were primarily male (58.3%) with a weighted mean age of 47.2 years. Weighted mean follow-up was 4.6 years. Tennis and manual laborer were the most common sport and occupation, respectively. Surgical success ranged from 63% to 100%, with a low complication rate of 4.3%. Success rates for return to sports and work were 81%-100% and 66.7%-100%, respectively, and only 1 study reported a return to work rate <90%.

CONCLUSION: This systematic review demonstrates that surgical intervention for refractory ME often has a high success rate. Regardless of surgical technique performed, patients generally demonstrated an improvement in PROs, and an encouraging number returned to work with limited complications. Further investigation is necessary to determine superiority among open, arthroscopic, and percutaneous techniques.

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