Posttraumatic Elbow Arthritis in the Young Adult: Evaluation and Management

J Am Acad Orthop Surg November 2012 ; 20 Benjamin W. Sears Abstract

Degenerative joint disease following trauma to the elbow is difficult to manage in any patient. However, this condition becomes substantially more challenging in the young, active population. Increased activity demands and limited functional capacity of total elbow arthroplasty mean that joint arthroplasty should be regarded as a salvage procedure. The primary goal of treatment is to restore a pain-free or minimally painful functional joint while preserving future surgical options. This requires accurate assessment of the primary patient complaint, be it terminal pain and stiffness or pain along the entire arc of motion. Patients who report stiffness and pain at terminal motion may benefit from arthroscopic or open osteocapsular débridement. Those with advanced degenerative changes and pain throughout the entire arc of motion may require joint resurfacing with interposition arthroplasty, partial joint arthroplasty, or total joint arthroplasty.

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