Incidence and implications of early postoperative wound complications after total elbow arthroplasty

In Ho Jeon, Bernard F. Morrey, Okechukwu A. Anakwenze, Nho V. Tran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Hypothesis: Other than an awareness, there is little detailed information regarding wound problems after total elbow arthroplasty. The purpose of this study was to (1) determine the incidence of wound complications after elbow arthroplasty, (2) document the long-term implications, (3) characterize risk factors, and (4) discuss a management strategy. We hypothesize that the incidence of this complication can be reduced with careful preoperative planning. Materials and methods: We reviewed 1749 total elbow arthroplasties. The average patient age was 61.5 years (range; 30-91 years). Wound complications were diagnosed according to the criteria of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Results: We identified and studied 97 patients (5.5%) from the 1749 procedures. The most common problems were delayed healing and drainage in 34 and wound hematoma in 33, of which 9 (27%) progressed to secondary deep infection. Of the 97 patients, 86 (88.7%) healed with the retention of the implant, 24 (∼25%) progressed to a septic elbow, and 11 (∼50%) required resection. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis represented 33% of the entire sample, but represented 45.8% of those with septic complications. Posttraumatic arthritis patients represented 58% of the entire sample and only 33% of those with septic problems (P < .05). Conclusions: The overall incidence of serious wound complications was slightly less than anticipated; however, the significance was considerable. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are most vulnerable. Persistent wound drainage showed a high correlation for deep infection and subsequent implant removal. Anticipation of potential problems and appropriate prophylactic management may avoid wound complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)857-865
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of shoulder and elbow surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Case Series
  • Level IV
  • Postoperative
  • Total elbow arthroplasty
  • Treatment Study
  • Wound complication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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