Background: Although numerous articles have addressed the risk of pulmonary embolism following total knee and total hip arthroplasty, we were unable to find comparable information for the risk following elbow arthroplasty. We therefore sought to determine the prevalence of pulmonary embolism after total elbow arthroplasty. Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of the medical records of consecutive patients who had undergone primary elbow arthroplasty (816 procedures) or revision total elbow arthroplasty (260 procedures) at our tertiary-care academic medical institution between June 1981 and June 2001. Our purpose was to identify all patients in whom a pulmonary embolism developed after the surgery. Results: Three patients had a pulmonary embolism and one died as a result of the complication during the twenty-year study period. Because of a low index of suspicion, the presenting symptoms of the pulmonary embolus were originally attributed to other causes of respiratory distress in two of the three patients. Conclusions: These findings suggest that pulmonary embolism after total elbow arthroplasty is a rare but potentially fatal complication. Surgeons should consider this diagnosis when a patient exhibits respiratory distress after total elbow arthroplasty. Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine