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The Role of Arthroscopy in Chronic Elbow Instability

Published:October 10, 2013DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arthro.2013.08.016

      Purpose

      Elbow arthroscopy has had an emerging role in the management of many disorders of the elbow. In patients with chronic elbow instability, several arthroscopic techniques have been described in the diagnosis and management of posterolateral rotatory instability and valgus instability.

      Methods

      We performed a systematic review investigating the role of arthroscopy in posterolateral rotatory instability and valgus instability in the elbow using the PubMed and CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) databases, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, consisting of articles from peer-reviewed journals published in the English language after January 1, 1991.

      Results

      Search criteria initially identified 249 articles. Twenty-five articles met criteria for inclusion. This included 17 review articles, 4 cadaveric studies, 3 retrospective studies, and 1 prospective study. Two of the retrospective studies compared arthroscopic and open techniques. Articles included in this systematic review concluded that arthroscopy is an accurate adjunct to physical examination and imaging in the diagnosis of chronic elbow instability and affords an exceptional view of the joint with the ability to address intra-articular pathologic conditions. Arthroscopic surgical techniques have shown equivalent clinical outcomes in a comparison of arthroscopic and open techniques.

      Conclusions

      Elbow arthroscopy is a valuable tool in the diagnosis and management of chronic elbow instability. Patients treated arthroscopically benefit from additional diagnostic techniques, improved visualization of the elbow joint, the ability to address coexisting intra-articular pathologic conditions, and minimal soft tissue injury with no clinical consequences in outcomes. With such significant advantages, the use of elbow arthroscopy is likely to expand in the management of chronic elbow instability.

      Level of Evidence

      Level IV, systematic review.
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