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J Hand Surg Am. 2006 Oct;31(8):1264-71.

Elbow capsulectomy for posttraumatic elbow stiffness.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, 02114, USA.



To determine factors associated with diminished elbow function and upper-extremity-specific health status after elbow capsulectomy for posttraumatic stiffness.


Forty-six adult patients with posttraumatic elbow stiffness were evaluated an average of 48 months after open capsular excision. A second capsular excision was performed in 9 patients (29%). Stepwise multiple linear regression analysis was used to identify predictors of the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons Elbow Score, the Mayo Elbow Performance Index, and the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand scores after all procedures.


The average improvement in ulnohumeral motion after the index surgery for capsular release was 53 degrees . (The average flexion was 98 degrees .) The 9 patients who had subsequent repeat elbow contracture release gained an additional 24 degrees , leading to a final average flexion arc for the entire cohort of 103 degrees . Multiple linear regression identified the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons pain score, persistent ulnar nerve dysfunction, and duration of follow-up evaluation after the initial capsular release as independent predictors of a higher Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire score; flexion arc and pain score as independent predictors of the Mayo Elbow Performance Index; and flexion arc, forearm arc, pain score, and persistent ulnar neuropathy as independent predictors of the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons score.


Open elbow capsulectomy for posttraumatic elbow stiffness restores a near-100 degrees flexion arc on average. Second elbow releases provide limited additional motion in most patients. Final motion influences physician-based rating scales but not patient-specific health status (Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire), which is dominated by pain and persistent ulnar neuropathy.


Therapeutic IV.

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