Complications of hinged external fixators of the elbow

Emilie V. Cheung, Shawn W. O'Driscoll, Bernard F. Morrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Despite the growing use of hinged external fixators of the elbow, there are no studies regarding the complications associated with their application. The purpose of this study is to report our experience with complications with this procedure. Between 1998 and 2005, we reviewed the records of 100 consecutive patients who were treated with hinged external fixators (including 433 pin sites). Complications specifically related to pin placement were recorded. There were 15 patients with minor complications (15%) involving 21 pins (4.8%) and 10 patients with major complications (10%) involving 29 pins (6.7%). Minor complications included local erythema and nonpurulent drainage lasting greater than 5 days in 9 patients (21 pins) and the need for skin release to decrease tension adjacent to pins in 6 patients (9 pins). Major complications included purulent pin site drainage in 1 patient (2 pins), fixator malalignment in 1, pin loosening in 4 (11 pins), and deep infection in 4. There were no fractures around the pin sites or nerve injuries associated with pin placement. With care, articulated external fixators can be used without a high incidence of major complications. Most of the complications were attributed to local pin site infection. Factors clinically associated with an increased risk of deep infection include a history of prior procedures in the post-traumatic elbow and the complexity of the operative technique.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-453
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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