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Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1990 Apr;(253):123-32.

Results of reconstruction for failed total elbow arthroplasty.

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Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY 10021.


Failure of total elbow arthroplasty leads to difficult and complicated surgical reconstruction. This study evaluates the results of reconstruction after implant removal with respect to pain, motion, and functional ability. Between 1978 and 1985, 11 patients required implant removal. Indications for removal were infection for seven, implant fracture for three, and recurrent dislocation for one. The original diagnosis was rheumatoid arthritis in six elbows and traumatic arthritis in five. The average length of the follow-up period was 5.5 years after implant removal (minimum, two years). Treatment consisted of implant removal and soft-tissue arthroplasty combined with external fixation in ten patients, and attempted arthrodesis with external fixation in one. There were four good, one fair, two poor, and four failed results. Satisfactory results were obtained in seven of the eight elbows in which an anatomic arthroplasty was achieved. This consisted of containment of the ulna by the humeral epicondylar remnants. All eight elbows were pain-free with an average arc of motion of 85 degrees (range, 55 degrees to 120 degrees). They had excellent elbow flexion power; however, triceps strength was often compromised. In the three elbows in which anatomic arthroplasty could not be achieved, one was flail, one was later converted to an arthrodesis with a customized plate, and the third required an immediate arthrodesis. All three were rated as failures. Fractures occurred in five of the 11 elbows. One occurred preoperatively, three occurred intraoperatively, and one occurred postoperatively. All healed satisfactorily during the course of immobilization. The importance of an anatomic arthroplasty when removing a total arthroplasty cannot be overemphasized. Retaining the epicondylar segments is important because satisfactory results were obtained in patients in whom entrapment of the olecranon within the epicondylar ridges was obtained. Such patients can achieve a satisfactory soft-tissue arthroplasty without the use of an interpositional material. When the epicondylar ridges were not retained and there was marked instability, the patients did not achieve satisfactory results.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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