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J Hand Surg Am. 2012 Aug;37(8):1665-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2012.05.013.

Early results of surgical intervention for elbow deformity in cerebral palsy based on degree of contracture.

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  • 1Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY, USA.



Elbow flexion posture, caused by spasticity of the muscles on the anterior surface of the elbow, is the most common elbow deformity seen in patients with cerebral palsy. This study retrospectively evaluated early results of 2 surgical interventions for elbow flexion deformities based on degree of contracture. We hypothesized that by guiding surgical treatment to degree of preoperative contracture, elbow extension and flexion posture angle at ambulation could be improved while preserving maximum flexion.


Eighty-six patients (90 elbows) were treated for elbow spasticity due to cerebral palsy. Seventy-one patients (74 elbows) were available for follow-up. Fifty-seven patients with fixed elbow contractures less than 45° were surgically treated with a partial elbow muscle lengthening, which included partial lengthening of the biceps and brachialis and proximal release of the brachioradialis. Fourteen patients (17 elbows) with fixed elbow contractures ≥ 45° had a more extensive full elbow release, with biceps z-lengthening, partial brachialis myotomy, and brachioradialis proximal release.


Age at surgery averaged 10 years (range, 3-20 y) for partial lengthening and 14 years (range, 5-20 y) for full elbow release. Follow-up averaged 22 months (range, 7-144 mo) for partial lengthening and 18 months (range, 6-51 mo) for full elbow release. Both groups achieved meaningful improvement in flexion posture angle at ambulation, active and passive extension, and total range of motion. Elbow flexion posture angle at ambulation improved by 57° and active extension increased 17° in the partial lengthening group, with a 4° loss of active flexion. In the full elbow release group, elbow flexion posture angle at ambulation improved 51° and active extension improved 38°, with a loss of 19° of active flexion.


Surgical treatment of spastic elbow flexion in cerebral palsy can improve deformity. We obtained excellent results by guiding the surgical intervention by the amount of preoperative elbow contracture.


Therapeutic IV.

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