Proximal ulnar fractures in adults: a review of 163 cases

Injury. 2015 Jan:46 Suppl 1:S18-23. doi: 10.1016/S0020-1383(15)70006-9. Epub 2015 Jan 19.


The aim of this study was to report the epidemiological characteristics and the experience of 5 departments of trauma, in France, in the management of fractures of the proximal ulna. 163 patients with fractures of the proximal ulna with a mean age of 49.9 years (range 16-97) were managed. The most common mode of injury was a motor vehicle collision (48%). 18% sustained associated injuries to the ipsilateral limb. Open fractures were present in 42 patients (25%). A total of 109 patients had a fracture of the olecranon, with the Mayo 2A and B types most frequently seen (66%). The patients were invited for clinical examination at a mean duration of 16 months, retrospectively. Validated patient-oriented assessment scores involving the Mayo Elbow Performance Index (MEPI) and the Broberg and Morrey score were evaluated. All patients had follow-up radiographs. The mean arc of elbow motion was 130° (70-150°). The mean MEPI was 91 (20-100) with good results in 23% and excellent results in 52% of the patients. The mean Broberg and Morrey score was 90 after isolated olecranon fracture, and decreased with the complexity of the lesion. 117 fractures (72%) healed with ulnohumeral congruity. 9 fracture non-unions occurred (6%). Although the fracture of the proximal ulna can be described in several classifications, none of them accommodate it satisfactorily, because of the complexity of the lesion. The coronoid process is the keystone for the stability of the elbow. It forms the anterior buttress with the radial head. Tension band wire fixation is by far the commonest technique of internal fixation used for the treatment of non-comminuted olecranon fractures. Dorsal plate fixation is a useful option by providing improved fixation of complex comminuted fractures and fracture-dislocations. The radiocapitellar joint has to be restored appropriately, preserving the radial head when possible and replacing it with a prosthesis otherwise. The lateral collateral ligament complex is commonly disrupted and usually can be reattached to its origin from the lateral epicondyle. In addition, a brief period of hinged external fixation should be considered.

Keywords: Coronoid fractures; Elbow joint; Joint instability; Monteggia; Olecranon fractures; Proximal ulna fractures; Ulna fractures.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods*
  • Fractures, Comminuted / diagnostic imaging
  • Fractures, Comminuted / epidemiology*
  • Fractures, Comminuted / surgery
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olecranon Process / injuries*
  • Olecranon Process / surgery
  • Radiography
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Recovery of Function
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ulna Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Ulna Fractures / epidemiology*
  • Ulna Fractures / surgery
  • Wrist Joint / physiopathology*