Terrible triad injury of the elbow: how to improve outcomes?

Orthopaedics-Traumatology Department, Toulouse-Purpan university hospital, place du Dr-Baylac, 31059 Toulouse, France.
Orthopaedics & Traumatology Surgery & Research (Impact Factor: 1.06). 04/2010; 96(2):147-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.rcot.2010.02.008
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Dislocation of the elbow joint combined with fractures of the radial head and ulnar coronoid process is referred to as Terrible Triad Injury (TTI). The purpose of this study is to report our experience in the management of this specific injury and to validate the therapeutic choices of our treatment.
Between 1996 and 2006, 23 TTI in 22 patients were treated in our department. Fifteen males and seven females of mean age 46 years were included in this series.Internal fixation of the radial head was performed in 13 cases and arthroplasty in four. Fractures of the coronoid process were managed by surgical fixation in 10 cases. All torn ligaments were reconstructed which include 19 lateral and six medial ligament reconstructions.
Thirteen patients (14 elbows) were reviewed at a mean follow-up of 63 months, four patients at a mean follow-up of 11 month (range, 6 to 18 months), and five patients were lost to follow-up. All patients had stable elbow joint and in 90% of the cases, patients reported mild or no elbow pain. The arc of extension-flexion ranged from 18 to 127 grades, while the average arc of pronation-supination was 134 grades. The mean Mayo Elbow Performance Score was 87. Only one patient suffered from osteoarthritis 8 years after trauma and all elbows were centred on X-rays. Negative prognosis factor was associated with Mason type 3 radial head fractures.
The principle of the surgical management is based on two main objectives: restoration of bony stabilizing structures (radial head and coronoid process) and lateral collateral ligament reconstruction. A medial surgical approach is recommended in the case of persistent posterolateral instability following lateral collateral ligament reconstruction or when fixation of a large coronoid process fragment is indicated. The use of an external fixator is only advocated in case of persistent instability following the reconstruction of bony and ligamentous structures.
Level IV: Retrospective study.

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    ABSTRACT: While the majority of terrible triad elbow injuries (ulnohumeral dislocation with radial head and coronoid fractures) are managed surgically, nonoperative treatment may be appropriate in selected patients, but results with this approach have been limited by very small studies. We assessed (1) functional outcomes using two validated questionnaires, (2) elbow ROM, strength, and stability, (3) the presence of union and arthritis on radiographs, and (4) complications among a group of patients managed nonoperatively for terrible triad injuries. Between 2006 and 2012, we retrospectively identified 12 patients with terrible triad elbow injuries who were treated nonoperatively and met the following criteria: (1) a concentric joint reduction, (2) a radial head fracture that did not cause a mechanical block to rotation, (3) a smaller coronoid fracture (Regan-Morrey Type 1 or 2), and (4) a stable arc of motion to a minimum of 30° of extension to allow active motion within the first 10 days. Eleven patients were available for followup of at least 12 months after the injury (mean, 36 months; range, 12-90 months). Outcome measures included two patient-reported functional outcome measures (DASH, Mayo Elbow Performance Index [MEPI]), a standardized physical examination to record elbow ROM and stability, isometric strength measurements, and radiographic evidence of bony union and elbow arthrosis. Complications were also recorded. At latest followup, mean ± SD DASH score was 8.0 ± 11.0 and mean MEPI score was 94 ± 9. Mean ROM of the affected elbow was 134° ± 5° flexion, 6° ± 8° extension, 87° ± 4° pronation, and 82° ± 10° supination. No instability was detected. Strength assessments demonstrated the following mean percentages of the contralateral, unaffected elbow: flexion 100%, extension 89%, pronation 79%, and supination 89%. Four patients had arthritic changes on radiographs that did not call for treatment as of latest followup. Complications included one patient who underwent surgical stabilization for early recurrent instability and another who underwent arthroscopic débridement for heterotopic bone. In selected patients, nonoperative treatment of terrible triad injuries is an option that can provide good function and restore stable elbow ROM. However, nonoperative management requires close clinical and radiographic followup to monitor for any delayed elbow subluxation or fracture displacement. Level IV, therapeutic study. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
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    ABSTRACT: Terrible triad injury of the elbow (TTIE), comprising elbow dislocation with radial head and coronoid process fracture, is notoriously challenging to treat and has typically been associated with complications and poor outcomes. The objective of this systematic review was to summarize the most recent available evidence regarding functional outcomes and complications following surgical management of TTIE. Medline, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar were searched to identify relevant studies, which were included if they were retrospective or prospective in design, involved participants who had TTIE, and were published in English. Outcomes of interest were functional outcomes and complications. Sixteen studies, involving 312 patients, were included in the systematic review. Mean follow up after surgery was typically 25 to 30 months. Mean Mayo elbow performance scores ranged from 78 to 95. Mean Broberg-Morrey scores ranged from 76 to 90. Mean DASH scores ranged from 9 to 31. The proportion of patients who required reoperation due to complications ranged from 0 to 54.5% (overall = 70/312 [22.4%]). Most of these complications were related to hardware fixation problems, joint stiffness, joint instability, and ulnar neuropathy. The most common complications that did not require reoperation were heterotopic ossification (39/312 [12.5%] patients) and arthrosis (35/312 [11.2%] patients). The results of this systematic review indicate that functional outcomes after surgery for TTIE are generally satisfactory and that complications are common. Further research is warranted to determine which surgical techniques optimize functional outcomes and reduce the risk of complications.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(5):e97476. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Terrible triad injuries of the elbow, defined as elbow dislocation with associated fractures to the radial head and coronoid, are associated with stiffness, pain, and loss of motion. Studies to date have consisted of small sample sizes and used heterogeneous surgical techniques, which render comparisons difficult and unreliable. In a group of patients treated under a standard surgical protocol, we sought to determine the early dislocation rate, the range of motion in those not undergoing secondary procedures, the frequency and types of secondary surgical interventions required, the difference in motion between those undergoing secondary surgery and those who did not, and the frequency of heterotopic ossification and patient-reported stiffness. Patients underwent a surgical protocol that involved fixing the coronoid, fixing the radial head if possible, otherwise performing radial head arthroplasty, and repairing the lateral ligamentous structures. Patients were excluded if ipsilateral upper extremity fractures from the humerus to the distal forearm were present. Fifty-two patients had a minimum followup of 6 weeks and were included for the early dislocation rate, and 34 of these (65%) had a minimum of 6 months followup and were included for the rest of the data. Eighteen of the 52 (35%) were considered lost to followup because they were seen for less than 6 months postsurgically and were excluded from further analysis. Chart review was performed to determine the presence of early dislocation within the first 6 weeks after surgery, range of motion in patients not requiring a secondary procedure, the frequency and types of secondary procedures required, the range of motion before and after a secondary procedure if it was required, and postoperative stiffness. Postoperative radiographs were analyzed to determine the presence and severity of heterotopic ossification. One of 52 patients sustained a dislocation within the first weeks of surgery (1.9%). Those not undergoing a secondary procedure were able to achieve a flexion arc of 110° and a supination-pronation arc of 148°. Nine of 34 patients (26%) underwent a secondary surgical procedure with stiffness, heterotopic ossification, and ulnar neuropathy being the most common surgical indications. Before secondary surgical procedures, patients had a flexion arc of 57° and a supination-pronation arc of 55°, which was less than those only requiring primary surgery alone (p < 0.001). After secondary surgery, patients were able to achieve a flexion arc of 96° and a supination-pronation arc of 124°, which was not different from those who did not undergo reoperation (p = 0.09 and p = 0.08, respectively). Twenty-eight of 34 patients demonstrated evidence of heterotopic ossification on radiographs, whereas 20 patients, including all nine undergoing secondary procedures, reported stiffness at the elbow. Using a standardized surgical protocol, a low early dislocation rate was observed, although stiffness remains a challenge. Many patients who initially do not attain functional range of motion can usually attain this after secondary procedures aimed at removing the heterotopic ossification. Level IV, therapeutic study. See guidelines for authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
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