Hinged elbow fixator for complex fracture-dislocations of the elbow

Relazione: 1.1 – Congresso: EFORT – SECOT 2010 – Anno: 2010
relatori: G. Giannicola, F.M. Sacchetti, E. Manauzzi, G. Bullitta, F. Postacchini
speaker: A. Greco – lingua: ENG

A particular pattern of complex instability of the elbow is “the terrible triad”, in which elbow dislocation is associated with fractures of the coronoid and radial head. Other frequent patterns are the variant of Monteggia lesions (Bado II) described by Jupiter which is characterized by ulnar fracture associated with fracture-dislocation of proximal radius, and the articular fracture of the distal humerus associated with elbow dislocation. The goal of treatment is to restore the primary stabilizers of the elbow such as the coronoid process, olecranon and both collateral ligaments by internal fixation and reconstruction of the ligaments. If elbow stability obtained at operation is unsatisfactory or internal fixation not enough stable, there an indication for applying a dynamic external fixator (DEF). The latter allows: 1) the articular congruence to be mainained and the ligaments to heal in adequate tension and position, 2) internal fixation and ligaments reconstruction to be protected, and 3) immediate joint motion to be carried out.

From 2005 to 2008, we treated surgically 31 patients with complex instability of the elbow. DEF was applied in 38% of cases, namely 3 terrible triads, 5 fracture-dislocations of Monteggia and 4 articular fractures of the humerus associated with elbow dislocation. The mean age of patients was 44 years (range 30-74). All patients underwent ORIF, reconstruction of ligaments and dynamic external fixation. The OptiROM elbow fixator was used In 2 patients, the Orthofix fixator in 1 and the DJD fixator in 9. In all cases, active elbow motion was allowed without restrictions from the second postoperative day. Indomethacin was consistently administered for 5 weeks to prevent heterotopic ossifications. The DEF was removed after 6 weeks. The mean follow-up was 25 months (range 5-44 months). At last follow-up, the clinical results, evaluated according to the MEPS, were excellent in 10 patients (83%), who had had a fast recovery of range of motion (ROM). The elbow was painless in all patients and stable in all but 1. Moderate osteoarthrosis was found in 60% of cases. Complications included: 1 elbow stiffness, 1 pseudarthrosis of capitulum humeri and troclea, 1 transitory radial nerve palsy, and 1 superficial pin tract infection.

In conclusion, DEF is a helpful tool for treatment of complex elbow instability, particularly when stable internal fixation cannot be obtained or instability persists after ligaments reconstruction. However, DEF increases morbidity, and implies a longer operative time and prolonged exposure to radiation.