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Tech Hand Up Extrem Surg. 2005 Sep;9(3):153-63.

Elbow arthroplasty using a convertible implant.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO, USA.


Total elbow arthroplasty remains the most definitive functional procedure for patients with end-stage painful arthritis of the elbow. Complication rates have historically been quite high, and early revision was not uncommon. A greater understanding of elbow anatomy and kinematics has led to advances in prosthetic design and surgical technique. The success of modern elbow arthroplasty for low-demand patients with rheumatoid arthritis has approached that of hip and knee arthroplasty. Mechanical failures have been noted to increase as a complication of both longevity and the use of elbow arthroplasty in a younger, higher-demand patient population. As the indications for total elbow arthroplasty widen to include more complex situations, it becomes more important to precisely recreate the flexion-extension axis of the elbow to optimally balance muscle forces and ligaments in an effort to improve implant durability. Advances in implant modularity and instrumentation can make determination and recreation of the flexion-extension axis more reliable and reproducible. An anatomic convertible implant allows the surgeon great versatility in choosing to perform hemiarthroplasty or unlinked or linked total elbow arthroplasty with assurance that later revision can be performed without the compulsory removal of well-fixed components. Conversion from an unlinked to a linked constraint, and visa versa, can be performed at any time. If late conversion is required, it can be performed in a minimally invasive fashion.

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