Bone and Joint Institute

Management of rheumatoid arthritis of the elbow with a convertible total elbow arthroplasty

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Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery





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© 2019 Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Board of Trustees Background: Total elbow arthroplasty (TEA) is commonly performed in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The purpose of this study was to compare outcomes and complications of unlinked and linked TEA using a convertible system in patients with RA. Methods: All patients with RA who underwent TEA at a single center with a minimum of 2 years' follow-up were reviewed. Demographic information, patient-reported outcome scores, functional outcome assessments, and radiographic parameters were evaluated at most recent follow-up. Results: We evaluated 82 patients (27 with unlinked TEA and 55 with linked TEA) with RA. The mean age at surgery was 61 ± 10 years, with a mean follow-up period of 6 ± 4 years. Demographic characteristics were similar between groups, with the exception of longer follow-up in the unlinked group (8 years vs. 5 years, P = .001). No differences in range of motion were noted. Elbow strength was similar other than pronation strength (74% ± 8% for unlinked vs. 100% ± 8% for linked, P = .03). The mean Mayo Elbow Performance Index was 83 ± 16; Patient Rated Elbow Evaluation score, 15 ± 18; and QuickDASH (short version of the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire) score, 34 ± 20. No differences in the rates of reoperation (17% vs. 24%, P = .4), complications (32% vs. 31%, P = .4), or revisions (13% vs. 17%, P = .3) were found between unlinked and linked devices. Four patients with instability, all with unlinked designs, underwent revision to a linked design. Four patients, all with linked designs, underwent revision for aseptic loosening of smooth short-stem ulnar components. Conclusion: TEA using a convertible implant design provides good patient-reported outcomes at mid-term follow-up in patients with RA. Our study was unable to detect a difference in the use of either unlinked or linked implant designs; further large comparison trials are needed.

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