Background: The location (proximal vs. distal) of elbow medial ulnar collateral ligament (MUCL) tears impacts clinical outcomes of nonoperative treatment. The purposes of our study were to (1) determine whether selective releases of the MUCL could be performed under ultrasound (US) guidance without disrupting overlying soft tissues, (2) assess the difference in medial elbow stability for proximal and distal releases of the MUCL using stress US and a robotic testing device, and (3) elucidate the flexion angle that resulted in the greatest amount of medial elbow laxity after MUCL injury. Methods: Sixteen paired, fresh-frozen elbow specimens were used. Valgus laxity was evaluated with both US and robotic-assisted measurements before and after selective MUCL releases. A percutaneous US-guided technique was used to perform proximal MUCL releases in 8 elbows and to perform distal MUCL releases in their matched pairs. The robot was used to determine the elbow flexion angle at which the maximum valgus displacement occurred for both proximally and distally released specimens. Open dissection was then performed to assess the accuracy of the percutaneous releases. Results: Percutaneous US-guided releases were successfully performed in 15 of 16 specimens. The proximal release resulted in greater valgus angle displacement (11° ± 2°) than the distal release (8° ± 2°) between flexion angles of 30° and 70° (P < .0001 at 30°, P < .0001 at 40°, P = .001 at 50°, P = .005 at 60°, and P = .020 at 70°). Valgus displacement between release locations did not reach the level of statistical significance between 80° and 120° (P = .051 at 80°, P = .131 at 90°, P = .245 at 100°, P = .400 at 110°, and P = .532 at 120°). When we compared the values for the mean increase in US delta gap (stressed – supported state) from before to after MUCL release, the proximally released elbows had larger increases than the distally released elbows (5.0 mm proximal vs. 3.7 mm distal, P = .032). After MUCL release, maximum mean valgus displacement occurred at 49° of flexion. Conclusions: US-guided selective releases of the MUCL can be performed reliably without violating the overlying musculature. Valgus instability is not of greater magnitude for distal releases when compared with proximal releases. This findings suggests there must be alternative factors to explain the difference in clinical prognosis between distal and proximal tears. The observed flexion angle for maximum valgus laxity could have important implications for elbow positioning during US or fluoroscopic stress examination, as well as surgical repair or reconstruction of the MUCL.
- Basic Science Study
- medial elbow dysfunction
- valgus instability
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine