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Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 Feb;98(6):e13054. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000013054.

Replacement or repair of terrible triad of the elbow: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Department of Orthopedics, Yiwu Central Hospital, Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University, Yiwu, Zhejiang Province.
The 94th Hospital of PLA, Nanchang, 330002, Jiangxi.
Department of Surgery, College of Clinical Medicine, Dali University, Dali 671000,Yunnan Province, China.



Surgical treatment for terrible triad injuries remains a challenging clinical problem, and controversy exists of whether it is better to repair or replace the radial head. The objective of this systematic review was to evaluate the clinical outcomes of repair and arthroplasty replacement of the radial head in patients with terrible triad injury.


Medline, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, and Google Scholar were searched up to July 30, 2018 to identify the relevant studies, which included patients who had received treatments of the terrible triad of the elbow and also had reported with the quantitative outcomes. Outcomes of interest were functional outcomes.


Four studies with a total of 115 patients were included in the systematic review. Most patients were type II or III radial head fractures based on the Mason classification systems. Fifty-one patients received radial head repair surgery and 64 underwent replacement. Two studies had indicated that patients in the replacement group were significantly associated with better treatment outcome assessed by DASH (Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand) and MEPS (Mayo Elbow Performance Score) scores. The meta-analysis indicated that patients with the arthroplasty replacement were associated with significantly better ROM outcomes in flexion, extension, pronation than those with radial head repaired. In addition, patients in the replacement group showed fewer post-surgery complications than those in the repair group.


Our review had indicated that patients with terrible triad injuries undergo arthroplasty replacement have better clinical outcomes and fewer post-surgery complications than those received the repair surgery. Radial head replacement might be a more effective treatment approach with good clinical outcomes for patients with a terrible triad of the elbow.

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