Post-traumatic flexion contractures of the elbow: Operative treatment via the limited lateral approach.
Brinsden MD., Carr AJ., Rees JL.
Varying surgical techniques, patient groups and results have been described regards the surgical treatment of post traumatic flexion contracture of the elbow. We present our experience using the limited lateral approach on patients with carefully defined contracture types.Surgical release of post-traumatic flexion contracture of the elbow was performed in 23 patients via a limited lateral approach. All patients had an established flexion contracture with significant functional deficit. Contracture types were classified as either extrinsic if the contracture was not associated with damage to the joint surface or as intrinsic if it was.Overall, the mean pre-operative deformity was 55 degrees (95%CI 48-61) which was corrected at the time of surgery to 17 degrees (95%CI 12-22). At short-term follow-up (7.5 months) the mean residual deformity was 25 degrees (95%CI 19-30) and at medium-term follow-up (43 months) it was 32 degrees (95%CI 25-39). This deformity correction was significant (p < 0.01). One patient suffered a post-operative complication with transient dysaesthesia in the distribution of the ulnar nerve, which had resolved at six weeks. Sixteen patients had an extrinsic contracture and seven an intrinsic. Although all patients were satisfied with the results of their surgery, patients with an extrinsic contracture had significantly (p = 0.02) better results than those with an intrinsic contracture. (28 degrees compared to 48 degrees at medium term follow up). Surgical release of post-traumatic flexion contracture of the elbow via a limited lateral approach is a safe technique, which reliably improves extension especially for extrinsic contractures. In this series all patients with an extrinsic contracture regained a functional range of movement and were satisfied with their surgery.