Published online Aug 18, 2015. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v6.i7.513
Peer-review started: March 3, 2015
First decision: April 10, 2015
Revised: May 12, 2015
Accepted: June 1, 2015
Article in press: June 2, 2015
Published online: August 18, 2015
AIM: To evaluate the management, clinical outcome and cost implications of three different treatment regimes for simple elbow dislocations.
METHODS: Following institutional board approval, we performed a retrospective review of all consecutive patients treated for simple elbow dislocations in a Level I trauma centre between January 2008 and December 2010. Based on the length of elbow immobilisation (LOI), patients were divided in three groups (Group I, < 2 wk; Group II, 2-3 wk; and Group III, > 3 wk). Outcome was considered satisfactory when a patient could achieve a pain-free range of motion ≥ 100° (from 30° to 130°). The associated direct medical costs for the treatment of each patient were then calculated and analysed.
RESULTS: We identified 80 patients who met the inclusion criteria. Due to loss to follow up, 13 patients were excluded from further analysis, leaving 67 patients for the final analysis. The mean LOI was 14 d (median 15 d; range 3-43 d) with a mean duration of hospital engagement of 67 d (median 57 d; range 10-351 d). Group III (prolonged immobilisation) had a statistically significant worse outcome in comparison to Group I and II (P = 0.04 and P = 0.01 respectively); however, there was no significant difference in the outcome between groups I and II (P = 0.30). No statistically significant difference in the direct medical costs between the groups was identified.
CONCLUSION: The length of elbow immobilization doesn’t influence the medical cost; however immobilisation longer than three weeks is associated with persistent stiffness and a less satisfactory clinical outcome.
Core tip: Our study demonstrates that prolonged immobilisation following simple elbow dislocations may lead to detrimental effects. We therefore stress the need for increased vigilance to the duration of immobilisation and that every effort should be taken to ensure that without associated fractures, the elbow should not be immobilised for more than three weeks. In addition, our study supports that the direct medical cost from treating these injuries may be substantial regardless of the type of treatment, and this should be known both by commissioners and providers of health care.