Surgical Approaches to the Elbow

Emilie V. Cheung, MD and Scott P. Steinmann, MD J Am Acad Orthop Surg, Vol 17, No 5, May 2009

Surgical exposures for complex injuries about the elbow are technically demanding because of the high density of neurologic, vascular, and ligamentous elements around the elbow. The posterior approaches (ie, olecranon osteotomy, triceps-reflecting, triceps-splitting, triceps-reflecting anconeus pedicle flap, paratricipital) include techniques used to navigate the area around the triceps tendon and anconeus muscle. These approaches may be extended to gain access to the entire joint. The ulnar nerve, the anterior and posterior capsules, and the coronoid process are addressed by means of a medial approach. Lateral approaches are useful in addressing pathology at the radial head, capitellum, coronoid process, and anterior and posterior capsules. These approaches may be combined to address complex pathology in the setting of fracture fixation, arthroplasty, and capsular release.

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