Background: Primary degenerative arthritis of the elbow is an uncommon disorder that recently has been more clearly recognized. The purpose of this study was to analyze the long-term results and complications of ulnohumeral arthroplasty as treatment of primary osteoarthritis of the elbow and to document any tendency for recurrence of the arthritis after the procedure. Methods: The results of ulnohumeral arthroplasties performed at our institution, between 1986 and 1996, in forty-six elbows (forty-five patients) with primary osteoarthritis were reviewed at an average of eighty months (range, twenty-four to 164 months) after the operation. There were forty-four men and one woman with a mean age of forty-eight years. All patients complained of pain with terminal elbow extension. The pain was associated with locking in fourteen elbows and with ulnar nerve symptoms in twelve. The surgical procedure involved fenestration of the olecranon fossa and excision of olecranon and coronoid osteophytes in all patients, with removal of loose bodies in thirty-six elbows. A capsular release was performed in nineteen elbows, and an ulnar nerve transposition or neurolysis was done in eight. Preoperative and follow-up assessment included evaluation of elbow pain and range of motion with the Mayo Elbow Performance Score. Results: The mean arc of flexion-extension improved from 79° (range, 10° to 135°) preoperatively to 101° (range, 45° to 135°) at the time of follow-up (p < 0.05). At the last follow-up examination, thirty-five elbows (76%) were not painful or were only mildly painful and eleven were moderately or severely painful. According to the Mayo Elbow Performance Score, the result was excellent for twenty-six elbows, good for eight, fair for four, and poor for eight. Thirteen of the forty-five patients reported some degree of ulnar nerve symptoms postoperatively, and six of them required another operation to decompress or translocate the nerve. Two other patients underwent additional surgery because of persistent symptoms. Conclusions: The data from this study show that ulnohumeral arthroplasty can yield satisfactory long-term pain relief and an increase in the range of motion. Patients with severe preoperative limitation of elbow extension of >60° and flexion of <100° and those who undergo manipulation under anesthesia in the early postoperative period to increase motion are at risk for the development of ulnar nerve dysfunction postoperatively. One should consider prophylactic ulnar nerve decompression or mobilization under these circumstances.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine