Transolecranon fracture-dislocation of the elbow

D Ring, J B Jupiter, R W Sanders, J Mast, N S Simpson
Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma 1997, 11 (8): 545-50

OBJECTIVE: To characterize the prevalence, morphology, and prognosis of anterior (transolecranon) fracture-dislocations of the elbow.

DESIGN: Retrospective case series.

SETTING: A consecutive series of thirteen patients from a single level-one trauma center, plus four patients from the practices of two of the senior authors.

PATIENTS: Three of seventeen patients had simple, oblique fractures of the olecranon, and fourteen had complex, comminuted fractures of the proximal ulna, including fragmentation of the olecranon in seven patients, large coronoid fragments in eight patients, and segmental fractures of the ulna in six patients. Fourteen patients were male and three were female, with an average age of thirty-eight years (range, 18 to 78 years).

INTERVENTION: All fractures were treated by open reduction and internal fixation. Two one-third tubular plates had to be revised to 3.5-millimeter dynamic compression plates within six weeks of the initial operation.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Elbow performance rating of Broberg and Morrey.

RESULTS: At an average follow-up of twenty-five months, overall outcome was rated as excellent in seven patients, good in eight, and fair in two. Mild posttraumatic arthritis was noted in only two patients. Large coronoid fragments and extensive comminution of the trochlear notch did not preclude a good result provided that stable, anatomic fixation was achieved.

CONCLUSIONS: Anterior elbow dislocations occur most often as a fracture-dislocation in which the distal humerus is driven through the olecranon, thereby causing a complex, comminuted fracture of the proximal ulna. This injury is frequently confused with anterior Monteggia lesions by virtue of the readily apparent radiocapitellar dislocation. Stable restoration of the appropriate contour and dimensions of the trochlear notch of the ulna will lead to a good result in most cases.

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