Triceps-sparing ulnar approach for total elbow arthroplasty

N. Oizumi, N. Suenaga, C. Yoshioka, S. Yamane

To prevent insufficiency of the triceps after total elbow arthroplasty, we have, since 2008, used a triceps-sparing ulnar approach. This study evaluates the clinical results and post-operative alignment of the prosthesis using this approach.


We reviewed 25 elbows in 23 patients. There were five men and 18 women with a mean age of 69 years (54 to 83). There were 18 elbows with rheumatoid arthritis, six with a fracture or pseudoarthrosis and one elbow with osteoarthritis.


Post-operative complications included one intra-operative fracture, one elbow with heterotopic ossification, one transient ulnar nerve palsy, and one elbow with skin necrosis, but no elbow was affected by insufficiency of the triceps.


Patients were followed for a mean of 42 months (24 to 77). The mean post-operative Japanese Orthopaedic Association Elbow Score was 90.8 (51 to 100) and the mean Mayo Elbow Performance score 93.8 (65 to 100). The mean post-operative flexion/extension of the elbow was 135°/-8°. The Manual Muscle Testing score of the triceps was 5 in 23 elbows and 2 in two elbows (one patient). The mean alignment of the implants examined by 3D-CT was 2.8° pronation (standard deviation (sd) 5.5), 0.3° valgus (sd 2.7), and 0.7° extension (sd 3.2) for the humeral component, and 9.3° pronation (sd 9.7), 0.3° valgus (sd 4.0), and 8.6° extension (sd 3.1) for the ulnar component. There was no radiolucent line or loosening of the implants on the final radiographs.


The triceps-sparing ulnar approach allows satisfactory alignment of the implants, is effective in preventing post-operative triceps insufficiency, and gives satisfactory short-term results.

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