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Author | Asif M. Ilyas, MD




The pathoanatomy of elbow fracture-dislocations: A road map to treatment

Elbow fracture-dislocations are complex injuries that encompass both soft tissue and bony injury. Recognizing the significance of the bony articulation, soft tissue complex, and support of the musculotendinous units is central to an understanding of the pathoanatomy. Four common patterns have been identified, 2 that are true dislocations with loss of ulnohumeral articulation and 2 that represent only an ulnohumeral disruption but warrant inclusion as elbow fracture-dislocations. Complications may be early (eg, instability and stiffness) or late (eg, arthrosis). Three anatomical components provide stability and facilitate elbow function: the osseous articulation, capsuloligamentous complex, and musculotendinous units. With each progressive stage of soft tissue injury, the elbow experiences increasing instability. Elbow fracture-dislocations require operative treatment. (J Musculoskel Med. 2008;25:53-62)