Post-traumatic contracture of the elbow. Operative treatment, including distraction arthroplasty

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280 Scopus citations


Twenty-six consecutive patients who had post-traumatic contracture of the elbow were treated by operative release alone or by release and distraction arthroplasty, with or without fascial interposition. The type of operative procedure was determined by whether the factors limiting motion were purely extra-articular (extrinsic) or whether they included intra-articular (intrinsic) elements as well. The mean preoperative arc of total motion was 30 degrees (from 63 to 93 degrees of flexion). At follow-up examination, twenty-two to ninety-four months post-operatively, of twenty-five patients, the mean arc of total motion was 96 degrees (from 30 to 126 degrees). There were eight complications in seven (27 per cent) of the patients. Of these, four (avulsion of the triceps tendon, deep infection, and two ulnar-nerve paresthesias) were managed by subsequent operative treatment. The other four complications included drainage from a pin site, which resolved after removal of the pin; a three by two-centimeter skin slough, which spontaneously epithelialized; aseptic resorption of the distal end of the humerus and proximal end of the ulna, which stopped after immobilization and subsequent bracing of the elbow but resulted in moderate instability; and ulnar-nerve paresthesia, which was not operatively treated and persisted. Twenty-four (96 per cent) of the twenty-five patients who were followed for twenty-two months or more were satisfied with the results of the procedure because of the improved facility in carrying out activities of daily living. No patient had increased pain, but two had moderate instability. It was concluded that the results of distraction arthroplasty can be gratifying, but the technique is demanding and the rate of complications is high.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-618
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery - Series A
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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