Histologic Evaluation of the Triceps Brachii Tendon Insertion: Implications for Triceps-Sparing Surgery


      Triceps detachment and olecranon osteotomy are 2 techniques used to enhance exposure in elbow surgery. Both the techniques can potentially add considerable morbidity and lengthen the recovery after surgery. Triceps-sparing surgery can potentially mitigate those issues. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the triceps tendon insertion at a histologic level to help improve triceps-sparing surgical techniques used in elbow trauma and arthroplasty.


      Seventeen fresh-frozen cadaveric elbow specimens were collected. The olecranon and its soft tissue attachments were isolated. We performed gross measurements and sectioned the specimens for histologic evaluation in the saggital or coronal planes. The proximal-to-distal and medial-to-lateral dimensions of the tendon and the distance from the proximal tip of the olecranon to the proximal tendon insertion were measured microscopically on stained embedded sections.


      The proximal-to-distal dimension of the triceps tendon insertion was less than previously reported, whereas the medial-to-lateral dimension was similar. The true distance from the tip of the olecranon to the proximal tendon insertion was greater than the previously reported distance obtained via gross measurement.


      Gross measurement of the triceps tendon insertion overestimates and inaccurately represents the true insertional footprint. Gross measurement has been shown to demonstrate consistent disparity compared with histologic measurement. Histologic investigation provides a more accurate description.

      Clinical relevance

      The finding that the distance from the articular tip of the olecranon to the proximal tendon insertion is greater than previously reported may have clinical implications. A triceps split approach may allow more visualization and exposure of the posterior joint and, therefore, lessen the need for triceps detachment or olecranon osteotomy.

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