Background: Total elbow arthroplasty can be a valuable option for the treatment of ankylosed or very stiff elbows.
Methods: A semiconstrained total elbow arthroplasty was performed in thirteen patients (fourteen elbows) with a preoperative range of elbow motion of 30 degrees or less. Nine elbows were fused or ankylosed preoperatively. The mean age at the time of the surgery was fifty years (range, twenty-four to seventy-nine years). The etiology of the stiffness was trauma for eleven elbows, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis for two, and rheumatoid arthritis for one.
Results: After a mean duration of follow-up of sixty-three months, the result was excellent for four elbows, good for four, fair for one, and poor for five, according to the Mayo elbow performance score. The mean arc of flexion improved from 7 degrees (range, 0 to 30 degrees) preoperatively to 67 degrees (range, 10 to 115 degrees) after the surgery. The most important factor that influenced the final result was the presence of ectopic bone surrounding the elbow joint. There were seven complications. Infection developed in five elbows. Three elbows had a superficial infection, which did not compromise the final result in two and which was treated with a myocutaneous flap in one with skin necrosis, with an excellent result. Deep infection developed in two other elbows. Both had an unsatisfactory result, one after implant removal and one after several débridements and retention of the prosthesis. Two patients sustained a fracture because of a loose component, and the prosthesis was revised. Four patients who lost motion within the first month following the surgery had a manipulation under anesthesia.
Conclusions: Semiconstrained total elbow arthroplasty is a useful option for patients with an ankylosed or a very stiff elbow and results in a considerable improvement of motion. Because of the nature of the underlying pathology, complications, including reoperation, are frequent, but the risk can be lessened by careful preoperative planning and surgical technique. Replacement is the preferred option in patients who are more than sixty years of age, but it is also a good choice in younger patients if there is no other viable option.
†Service d'Orthopédie et Traumatologie, Hôpital Universitaire de Toulouse-Purpan, Place du Dr Baylac, 31059, Toulouse, France.
‡Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street S.W., Rochester, Minnesota 55905.