Thirty-eight elbows (thirty-seven patients) with an extrinsic contracture were treated operatively with a limited lateral approach to the anterior and posterior aspects of the capsule. Because the procedure elevates muscles from the anterior and posterior aspects of the lateral supracondylar osseous ridge, we called it the column procedure. The mean preoperative arc of flexion was 49 degrees (from 52 to 101 degrees). At a mean of forty-three months (range, twenty-four to seventy-four months) postoperatively, the mean arc of flexion was 94 degrees (from 27 to 121 degrees). The mean total gain in the arc of flexion-extension was 45 degrees; thirty-four elbows (89 percent) had an improved range of motion at the latest follow-up examination. Overall, thirty-one elbows (82 percent) had a satisfactory result. Greater improvement was obtained in elbows that had had severe stiffness (a total arc of 31 to 60 degrees) or very severe stiffness (a total arc of 30 degrees or less) or that had had a combined flexion and extension contracture. A complication occurred in four elbows (11 percent). A hematoma developed in two elbows and impaired the final outcome in one of them. Two elbows had transient ulnar paresthesia, which resolved spontaneously. The arc of flexion obtained at the time of the operation was lost in ten elbows (26 percent) after an initial period of improvement; at the latest follow-up evaluation, four of these elbows had a mean decrease in the arc of flexion of 24 degrees compared with preoperatively. The column procedure is associated with a low rate of complications and is safe and effective for the treatment of a limitation in flexion or extension resulting from an extrinsic contracture of the elbow.

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