Limited extension after linked total elbow arthroplasty in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

<p><i>Objective</i>: Total elbow arthroplasty (TEA) has become an established procedure to relieve pain and to increase the range of motion of the destructed elbow in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, some patients still have limited extension after TEA, and the causes of limited extension after TEA have yet to be elucidated.</p> <p><i>Methods</i>: To examine whether widening of the joint space can cause such limited extension, we retrospectively analyzed 55 cases of linked TEA in patients with RA. There were seven male and 40 female with a mean age of 63.8 years (range, 30–80 years) and a mean follow-up of 7.5 ± 4.2 years (range, 2.5–15.6 years). The Mayo Elbow Performance Score (MEPS) and radiological measurements were recorded. Widening of the joint space was calculated by subtracting the length measured on postoperative radiograph from preoperative radiograph.</p> <p><i>Results</i>: MEPS and range of motion were significantly improved after surgery except for extension. The degree of extension was significantly correlated with radiological widening of the joint space in the limited extension group. Correlation analyses showed that postoperative limited extension was correlated with lower MEPS daily function.</p> <p><i>Conclusions</i>: Limited extension after linked TEA is partly derived from perioperative widening of the joint space and potentially limits daily function in patients with RA.</p>