Background: Elbow contractures can cause functional limitation, and treatment can be challenging. The purpose of this article is to describe a novel technique that releases posttraumatic elbow contractures through an olecranon osteotomy and report the outcomes.
Methods: Thirty-five patients with refractory posttraumatic elbow contracture who underwent an olecranon osteotomy-facilitated elbow release (OFER) procedure were included in the study. The average patient age was 39.5 years (range, 18 to 63 years), and the mean duration of follow-up was 37.2 months (range, 24 to 72 months). Preoperative and postoperative data included age, sex, cause of contracture, previous surgical procedures, active elbow range of motion, Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) scores, visual analog scale pain scores, and radiographs. Intraoperative tourniquet time and complications were recorded.
Results: The mean preoperative elbow motion arc was 33° (51° to 84° of flexion). Postoperatively, the motion arc improved significantly (p < 0.001) to 110° (16° to 126° of flexion). The mean visual analog pain scale score improved from 6.3 preoperatively to 1.4 at the time of follow-up (p < 0.001). The mean DASH score improved from 57.5 preoperatively to 10.9 postoperatively (p < 0.001). The maximal improvement in the motion arc occurred at a mean of 8.7 weeks. There was 1 postoperative ulnar neurapraxia that resolved spontaneously. The intraoperative tourniquet time averaged 27 minutes (range, 18 to 45 minutes). The average time until radiographic evidence of union of the olecranon osteotomy site was 6.6 weeks (range, 5.7 to 7.7 weeks).
Conclusions: The OFER is a safe and effective means of treating posttraumatic elbow contractures, and is an alternative to traditional open or arthroscopic techniques.
Level of evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.