The adjunct use of lateral hinged external fixator in the treatment of traumatic destabilizing elbow injuries

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the results of using a lateral hinged external fixator as an adjunct stabilizer in the treatment of a variety of acute destabilizing elbow injuries.

Methods

A retrospective review was performed on the medical records of patients in whom a lateral monolateral elbow hinged external fixator was applied by the senior author. The indication to apply the fixator corresponded to a variety of acute injury patterns ranging from simple elbow trauma or dislocation to complex fracture–dislocation, and the decision was based on either the presence of recurrent or persistent instability in any direction and/or to secure a vulnerable or weak bony fixation or soft tissue repair as intra-operatively judged by the surgeon. The fixator was inserted in the same setting after the repair of the associated ligamentous and/or bony structures. Patients operated after one month of the trauma and those presented with open elbow injury or associated humeral or ulnar shaft fracture were excluded. Rehabilitation was immediately started and the fixator removed at six to eight weeks with elbow testing and gentle manipulation under general anaesthesia, and resuming of rehabilitation after removal. Clinical assessment was performed for all patients according to the Mayo Elbow Performance Score (MEPS) with evaluation of range of motion at regular intervals till the end of the post-operative first year, then at final follow-up for the purpose of the study with radiographic assessment for evaluation of elbow reduction and concentricity.

Results

There were 13 patients with a mean age of 42 years. Two patients had instability secondary to LCL rupture; one patient had redislocation because of associated coronoid process fracture; one patient had radial head fracture with rupture of both collateral ligaments; five patients had terrible triad injury with variable association of collateral ligaments lesions; and four patients had posterior Monteggia fracture–dislocation. The mean MEPS was 90 at a mean follow-up of seven years with six excellent, six good, and one fair result. All patients had a concentrically reduced and stable elbow as assessed clinically and radiologically with a mean functional arc of motion of 132° for extension–flexion and 178° for pronation–supination.

Conclusion

The hinged elbow external fixator represents a valuable adjunct in the therapeutic arsenal for the treatment of unstable elbows after bony and soft tissue repair. It provides satisfactory results in terms of stability and function and should be available in the operating room when a surgeon treats a complex elbow dislocation or fracture–dislocation.

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Authors

Contributions

A.H.C.: conception of the study, data analysis and interpretation, drafting and writing the article, and final approval of the version to be published.

A.H.A., M.J.H.R., A.A.D., H. M.W., and M.O. B: equal participation in data collection, data analysis, literature analysis, and final approval of the version to be published.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ali Hassan Chamseddine.

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The authors declare that the current study was approved by the Ethical Committee of their institution.

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Chamseddine, A.H., Asfour, A.H., Rahal, M.J.H. et al. The adjunct use of lateral hinged external fixator in the treatment of traumatic destabilizing elbow injuries. International Orthopaedics (SICOT) (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00264-021-04985-8

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Keywords

  • Hinged elbow external fixator
  • Monteggia fracture–dislocation
  • Mayo Elbow Performance Score
  • Complex elbow dislocation
  • Terrible triad of the elbow