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Bone Joint J. 2014 Oct;96-B(10):1385-91. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.96B10.33334.

The treatment of the acute Essex-Lopresti injury.

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University Hospital Duesseldorf, Department of Trauma and Hand surgery, Moorenstrasse 5, Duesseldorf, 40225, Germany.


The Essex-Lopresti injury (ELI) of the forearm is a rare and serious condition which is often overlooked, leading to a poor outcome. The purpose of this retrospective case study was to establish whether early surgery can give good medium-term results. From a group of 295 patients with a fracture of the radial head, 12 patients were diagnosed with ELI on MRI which confirmed injury to the interosseous membrane (IOM) and ligament (IOL). They were treated by reduction and temporary Kirschner (K)-wire stabilisation of the distal radioulnar joint (DRUJ). In addition, eight patients had a radial head replacement, and two a radial head reconstruction. All patients were examined clinically and radiologically 59 months (25 to 90) after surgery when the mean Mayo Modified Wrist Score (MMWS) was 88.4 (78 to 94), the mean Mayo Elbow Performance Scores (MEPS) 86.7 (77 to 95) and the mean disabilities of arm, shoulder and hand (DASH) score 20.5 (16 to 31): all of these indicate a good outcome. In case of a high index of suspicion for ELI in patients with a radial head fracture, we recommend the following: confirmation of IOM and IOL injury with an early MRI scan; early surgery with reduction and temporary K-wire stabilisation of the DRUJ; preservation of the radial head if at all possible or replacement if not, and functional bracing in supination. This will increase the prospect of a good result, and avoid the complications of a missed diagnosis and the difficulties of late treatment.


Acute Essex-lopresti injury; Distal radioulnar joint; Interossseous membrane; Radial head prosthesis; Temporary K-wire arthrodesis

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