Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of surgical repair of the medial collateral ligament and ulnar nerve release in cases of terrible triad injuries of the elbow.
Methods: This study included 16 patients (average age: 34 years) who underwent surgery following a diagnosis of terrible triad injury of the elbow between 1996 and 2007. Average follow up was 34.5 months. In all cases, the radial head was first fixed or replaced and the anterior capsule/coronoid complex and lateral collateral ligament were repaired. The medial side of the elbow was addressed (medial collateral ligament repair and ulnar nerve release) in 8 cases and not addressed in the remaining 8 cases. Range of motion, pain, stability, ulnar nerve symptoms, functional Mayo Elbow Performance Index, and Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand scores were documented. Serial X-rays were used to confirm ulnohumeral arthritis and development of ectopic calcification. Ultrasonography or MRI was used to detect ulnar nerve entrapment.
Results: Range of motion was slightly more limited in cases where the medial side was not addressed. Ulnohumeral range of motion and flexion degrees were higher in the cases where the medial side was addressed (p<0.05). Serial X-rays demonstrated impending ectopic calcification located at the proximal insertion of medial collateral ligament in patients who did not undergo medial side repair. MRI or ultrasonography confirmed these findings, revealing swollen displaced nerves resembling findings similar to cubital tunnel syndrome.
Conclusion: Ulnar neuropathy is a common complication after medial collateral ligament injury and prophylactic release will facilitate overall results and postoperative patient satisfaction.