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Elbow Arthritis
Updated: Feb 19 2018

Total Elbow Arthroplasty with Triceps-Reflecting Approach, Supine

Preoperative Patient Care
Operative Techniques

Preoperative Plan


Template fracture

  • identify fracture pattern, displacement, comminution, and presence of dislocation


Execute surgical walkthrough

  • describe key steps of the operation verbally to attending prior to beginning of case.
  • description of potential complications and steps to avoid them

Room Preparation


Surgical instrumentation

  • unlinked total elbow arthroplasty set


Room setup and equipment

  • c-arm perpendicular to OR table


Patient positioning

  • supine position
  • place affected extremity over arm bolster
  • arm should be in 90 degrees of flexion
  • place bump under ipsilateral scapula
  • place sterile tourniquet

Superficial Posterior Approach to the Elbow


Exsanguinate the extremity


Mark and start the incision

  • make a straight posterior incision just off the tip of the olecranon
  • incision should extend 9 cm proximal and 8 cm distal to the tip of the olecranon
  • create subcutaneous flaps


Identify the ulnar nerve

  • palpate the ulnar nerve and fully dissect it out
  • is helpful to pass tape or penrose for identification at all times
  • create a subcutaneous pocket for the ulnar nerve
  • excise 1 cm of the distal intermuscular septum
  • this is to prevent constriction of the nerve

Deep Dissection and Elbow Dislocation


Elevate the triceps

  • lift the triceps directly from the humerus and the intermuscular septum
  • elevate the medial aspect of the triceps off of the posterior humerus all the way down to the tip of the olecranon


Incise fascia between FCU and anconeus

  • incise the superficial fascia between the anconeus and the FCU from the posteromedial border of the ulna distally


Perform medial and lateral release

  • perform lateral release
  • elevate this with the triceps
  • Divide or dissect the anconeus on its lateral side
  • expose the radiocapitellar joint laterally
  • release the lateral and medial collateral ligaments from the origins of the humeral condyles
  • Release medial collateral ligaments
  • release medial collateral ligaments


Dislocate Elbow

  • externally rotate the shoulder and flex the elbow
  • separate the ulna from the humerus

Resect Bone and Broach Humerus and Ulna


Resect and broach humeral side

  • remove the central portion of the trochlea
  • identify the roof of the olecranon
  • enter intrmadullary canal
  • create a window in the olecranon fossa expose the intramedullary canal of the humerus
  • use the cutting jig of the specific implant system to guide the resection of the distal humerus
  • ensure the anatomic fit of the component between the humeral condyles


Resect and broach Ulnar side

  • enter the intramedullary canal of the ulnar side
  • use a high speed burr at the base of the coronoid
  • enlarge the canal to allow passage of the ulnar broach
  • broaches must be passed parallel to the subcutaneous border of the ulna
  • this ensures proper placement

Trial Implants


Place the implants


Perform a trial reduction

  • check the range of motion of the joint
  • full flexion and extension should be achieved


Test for bony impingement

  • check olecranon impingement on the humerus posteriorly
  • check the coronoid tip anteriorly
  • remove any impingements with a rongeur


Assess implant placement

  • assess alignment, stability and component tracking

Cement Implants


Place the cement

  • introduce antibiotic impregnated cement into the intramedullary canal with a long flexible cement nozzle
  • cement should have a relatively liquid consistency
  • place methylene blue into the cement to identify the bone cement interface


Add cement restrictors in the humerus and ulna

  • this improves canal pressurization


Place the final implants

  • the humeral components axis of rotation is at the level of the medial and lateral epicondyles
  • the ulnar components axis of rotation through the center of the greater sigmoid notch

Reattach Collateral Ligaments and Triceps


Repair collateral ligaments

  • reattach the medial and lateral collateral ligaments to there origin on the humerus


Reattach the triceps

  • pass No. 5 nonabsorbable suture in cruciate tunnels through the triceps
  • suture should be passed in a Bunnell fashion
  • pass suture through an additional horizontal tunnel
  • this allows the suture to cinch down to the olecranon


Tie knots

  • place elbow in 90 degrees of flexion
  • tie knots to the side
  • this is to prevent subcutaneous prominence

Wound Closure


Irrigation and hemostasis

  • irrigate wounds thoroughly
  • deflate tourniquet (if elevated)
  • coagulate any bleeders carefully


Deep Closure

  • repair the fascia of the FCU and anconeus to surrounding tissue with nonabsorbale suture
  • transpose the ulnar nerve into the prepared pocket
  • use 0-vicryl for deep closure


Superficial Closure

  • use 3-0 vicryl for subcutaneous closure
  • place subcutaneous drain
  • close skin with 3-0 nylon


Dressing and immediate immobilization

  • soft dressing (gauze, webril)
  • place in volar splint in extension
  • sling for comfort
Postoperative Patient Care
Private Note

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