Lateral Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction

The elbow is a very stable joint. The bone architecture provides 50% of the joint’s stability. The ligaments and the muscles surrounding the joint provide the rest of the joint’s stability. The main ligament stabilizer on the outside of the elbow is the lateral ulnar collateral ligament (LUCL). This ligament is frequently stretched or torn after an elbow dislocation. When the elbow is put back in place, the LUCL usually heals enough that it does not need to be fixed with surgery. On occasion, the LUCL remains loose resulting in an elbow that won’t stay in place throughout its entire range of motion. If this happens, patients may feel like their elbow slides out of place or “clunks” during activities like pushing themselves out of a chair.

If the LUCL remains loose after an injury, physical therapy aimed at strengthening the muscles around the elbow may be beneficial. However, the most reliable way to treat a loose LUCL is to repair the ligament or to reconstruct the ligament with a tendon from another part of the body (usually the forearm). Ligament repair is more effective if it is done within the first 2-3 weeks after the injury. Ligament reconstruction is usually better to treat an injury that is more than 3 weeks old. The ligament is reconstructed through an incision on the outside of the elbow. After surgery, patients are usually put into a splint for 7-10 days and then controlled motion is started. At 6 weeks, unrestricted motion is allowed. Return to full activity is allowed after 4-6 months depending on the type of activities the person is trying to get back to.

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