Post-traumatic proximal radioulnar synostosis: results of surgical treatment and review of the literature

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2020 Feb;29(2):329-339. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2019.07.026. Epub 2019 Sep 27.


Background: Post-traumatic proximal radioulnar synostosis is a very rare and disabling condition whose surgical treatment has traditionally been viewed with pessimism. The results of the few case series in the literature are conflicting. Our aims were (1) to describe the clinical results of a case series treated surgically by a single elbow surgeon and (2) to review the literature.

Methods: Twelve patients were evaluated. Preoperative radiographs and computed tomography scans were performed. According to the Viola and Hastings classification, there was 1 case of type IC synostosis; 3, type IIA; 2, type IIIA; and 8, type IIIB. Two patients had a double synostosis. The synostosis was excised in 10 cases; in addition, radial head excision, radial head arthroplasty, and proximal radial diaphyseal resection were performed in 1, 3, and 2 cases, respectively. The Mayo Elbow Performance Score, modified American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons score, and QuickDASH (short version of Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire) score were used for the preoperative and postoperative evaluation. The nonparametric Wilcoxon signed rank test was used for the statistical analysis.

Results: The mean follow-up period was 20.5 months. The final mean extension-flexion and pronation-supination arcs were 116° and 123°, respectively. Significant improvements were found in the Mayo Elbow Performance Score (P = .005), modified American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons score (P = .012), and QuickDASH score (P = .002), with mean values of 24, 28, and 17, respectively. One synostosis recurrence and one late disassembly of the radial head arthroplasty were observed.

Conclusions: Post-traumatic proximal radioulnar synostosis surgery is effective, but careful preoperative planning based on the pathoanatomic characteristics of each type of synostosis and associated lesions is mandatory. Synostosis excision is performed in most cases, whereas additional surgical procedures should be considered in selected cases.

Keywords: Elbow synostosis; elbow stiffness; elbow surgery; post-traumatic synostosis; radioulnar synostosis; synostosis treatment.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Forearm Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Forearm Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Forearm Injuries / surgery
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radius / abnormalities*
  • Radius / diagnostic imaging
  • Radius / surgery
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Recurrence
  • Synostosis / diagnosis*
  • Synostosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Synostosis / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ulna / abnormalities*
  • Ulna / diagnostic imaging
  • Ulna / surgery

Supplementary concepts

  • Radioulnar Synostosis