The Effect of Humeral and Ulnar Bone Tunnel Placement on Achieving Ulnar Collateral Ligament Graft Isometry: A Cadaveric Study


      To assess simulated ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) graft length change, using surgically dissected anatomic landmarks, between multiple combinations of humeral and ulnar bone tunnels.


      Three equidistant humeral and ulnar tunnels were created at each UCL footprint of 10 cadaveric elbows. Suture was passed between 9 possible tunnel combinations for each elbow and affixed to an isometry gauge. Each elbow was moved through an arc of 0, 30, 60, 90, and 120° for each tunnel combination. Changes in isometry gauge spring displacement (and, in effect, tension) were recorded.


      There was an overall significant effect (P < .0001) of tunnel placement at all degrees of flexion. Pairwise comparisons revealed increases in displacement between the central and posterior tunnel positions of the medial epicondyle, with significant differences (P = .0009) occurring when paired with both the central and posterior aspect of the sublime tubercle. Significant differences (P < .0001) were noted between the anterior and posterior humeral tunnel positions.


      Simulated UCL graft isometry is dependent upon optimal bone tunnel placement. No significant differences were noted between ulnar tunnel locations when paired with any given humeral tunnel. Conversely, deviation anterior or posterior from the centroid of the UCL footprint on the medial epicondyle significantly affected isometry at all degrees of flexion recorded with the greatest amount of displacement occurring with pairi4ng of posterior tunnels on both the humeral and ulnar footprints.

      Clinical Relevance

      This anatomic study highlights the importance of medial elbow bone tunnel placement and its effect on simulated UCL graft isometry.
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      Linked Article

      • Editorial Commentary: Perfect Tunnel Position in Tommy John Surgery Is Critical for Success
        ArthroscopyVol. 35Issue 7
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          The number of primary ulnar collateral ligament reconstructions (UCLRs) has been increasing at an alarming rate, and so has the number of revision UCLRs. Malpositioned tunnels are a technical surgical factor that causes graft failure and need for revision. Malpositioned tunnels result in a nonisometric graft. A common malposition error is to place the inferior humeral tunnel too far posterior, which causes the graft to be tight in flexion; therefore, elbow flexion will be restricted or, if flexion is forcibly obtained, the graft will be loose and nonfunctional.
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