Scientific Article|Articles in Press

Complications of Early Versus Delayed Total Elbow Arthroplasty for the Treatment of Distal Humerus Fractures

Published:January 27, 2023DOI:


      The purpose of this study was to compare the rates of wound complications and heterotopic ossification (HO) between patients who underwent acute total elbow arthroplasty (TEA) and those who underwent delayed TEA performed for the treatment of distal humerus fractures. Our hypothesis was that delayed surgery will have fewer wound complications but a higher rate of HO.


      We retrospectively reviewed 104 patients who had undergone TEA performed at 1 of 3 institutions following a distal humerus fracture. The acute cohort, comprising 69 patients, underwent TEA within 2 weeks; the delayed cohort, comprising 35 patients, received treatment between 2 weeks and 6 months. The rates of wound complications, HO, clinically relevant HO (requiring excision or resulting in loss of functional range of motion), and reoperation were recorded. These patients were followed up for an average of 52 (interquartile range, 18.5–117) weeks.


      Wound complications occurred in 10 patients (14.5%) in the early group and 7 (20.0%) in the delayed group. The overall rate of HO was 56.7% (59 patients). The rate of clinically relevant HO was 26.0% (27 patients), which was similar between the groups. Reoperation occurred in 20 patients (19.2%), which was similar between the groups. In the early group, 3 reoperations were performed for wound complications and 4 for HO. No patients required reoperation for these indications in the delayed group. The mean flexion-extension and supination-pronation arcs were 20°–130° and 80°–80°, respectively, which were similar between the groups. Rheumatoid arthritis and younger age were associated with increased odds of wound complications and reoperation.


      The rates of reoperation, wound complications, and HO were overall higher than those previously reported; however, the study was underpowered to determine a difference between early and delayed treatment.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Therapeutic IV.

      Key words

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