Long-term outcomes of total elbow arthroplasty for distal humeral fracture: results from a prior randomized clinical trial
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BACKGROUND: Total elbow arthroplasty (TEA) is a reliable treatment for elderly patients with comminuted intra-articular distal humeral fractures. However, the longevity and long-term complications associated with this procedure are unknown. The objectives of this study were to examine long-term outcomes and implant survival in elderly patients undergoing TEA for fracture. METHODS: Patients from a previously published randomized controlled trial of 42 patients in which TEA was compared with open reduction-internal fixation (ORIF) were followed up long term. Patients were aged 65 years or older with comminuted intra-articular distal humeral fractures. Outcomes included patient-reported grading of function and pain, revision surgical procedures, and implant survival. RESULTS: Data were obtained for 40 patients, 15 treated with ORIF and 25 treated with TEA, with a mean follow-up period of 12.5 years for surviving patients and 7.7 years for deceased patients. The reoperation rate was 3 of 25 in the TEA group and 4 of 15 in the ORIF group (P = .39). Of the 25 patients with TEAs, only 1 required (early) revision arthroplasty; 7 were living with their original arthroplasty, and 15 died with a well-functioning implant in situ. Three were lost to follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: TEA is an effective and reliable procedure for the treatment of comminuted distal humeral fractures in the elderly patient. Our study reveals reliable implant long-term survival, with no patient requiring a late revision. For the majority of these patients, a well-performed TEA will give them a well-functioning elbow for life and will be the last elbow procedure required.
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