Objective: To provide an evidence-based overview of the effectiveness of interventions for 4 nontraumatic painful disorders sharing the anatomic region of the elbow: cubital tunnel syndrome, radial tunnel syndrome, elbow instability, and olecranon bursitis.
Methods: The Cochrane Library, PubMed, Embase, PEDro, and CINAHL were searched to identify relevant reviews and randomized clinical trials (RCTs). Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed the quality of the methodology. A best-evidence synthesis was used to summarize the results.
Results: One systematic review and 6 RCTs were included. For the surgical treatment of cubital tunnel syndrome (1 review, 3 RCTs), comparing simple decompression with anterior ulnar nerve transposition, no evidence was found in favor of either one of these. Limited evidence was found in favor of medial epicondylectomy versus anterior transposition and for early postoperative therapy versus immobilization. No evidence was found for the effect of local steroid injection in addition to splinting. No RCTs were found for radial tunnel syndrome. For olecranon bursitis (1 RCT), limited evidence for effectiveness was found for methylprednisolone acetate injection plus naproxen. Concerning elbow instability, including 2 RCTs, one showed that nonsurgical treatment resulted in similar results compared with surgery, whereas the other found limited evidence for the effectiveness in favor of early mobilization versus 3 weeks of immobilization after surgery.
Discussion: In this review no, or at best, limited evidence was found for the effectiveness of nonsurgical and surgical interventions to treat painful cubital tunnel syndrome, radial tunnel syndrome, elbow instability, or olecranon bursitis. Well-designed and well-conducted RCTs are clearly needed in this field.