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Injury. 2009 Jun;40(6):582-90. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2009.01.123. Epub 2009 Apr 24.

Total elbow arthroplasty for the treatment of insufficient distal humeral fractures. A retrospective clinical study and review of the literature.

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  • 1Academic Department of Trauma, & Orthopaedics, School of Medicine, University, of Leeds, Leeds, UK.


Treatment of complex distal humeral fractures in older patients with osteopenic bone remains a major surgical challenge. We report the results of 11 patients over 75 years of age who underwent semiconstrained sloppy-hinge total elbow arthroplasty (TEA) due to comminuted intraarticular fractures of the distal humerus. There were 9 women and 2 men with a mean age of 79.6 years. The mean duration of follow up was 2.8 years. According to AO classification, there were 8 type C3 and 3 type C2 fractures. The mean time from injury to operation was 4.3 days and the mean length of hospital stay was 9.8 days. The elbow flexion/extension and forearm pronation/supination arc of motion averaged 107(0) and 121(0) respectively. The mean Mayo Elbow Performance Score (MEPS) was 90 points, equivalent to excellent result. One patient sustained a periprosthetic humeral fracture and signs of non-progressive radiolucency were found in 8 out of the 11 elbows. Our search in the English and International literature revealed 9 other clinical studies describing the results of TEA in 167 patients with 168 distal humeral fractures. The mean age of patients varied from 69 to 84.6 years and the mean follow up from 17.8 months to 7 years. The mean MEPS among the studies was between 85 and 95 points. Wound infection was diagnosed in 9 cases (5.4%) but component removal and subsequent reimplantation was only applied in 3 elbows (1.8%). Partial ulnar nerve lesions were reported in 11 patients (6.5%) and reflex sympathetic dystrophy was developed in 5 patients (3%). In 3 elbows (1.8%) a periprosthetic fracture after a fall was recorded. Radiolucent lines between the cement mantle and bone interface were described in 24 cases (14.3%) but the majority of them (17 cases) were stable and asymptomatic. In conclusion, TEA constitutes a viable treatment option for the complex distal humeral fractures in elderly and medically compromised patients. Careful patient selection and regular follow up evaluation are mandatory for achieving an optimal result and eliminating the risks of mismanagement and early implant failure.

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