Infection after total elbow arthroplasty

Ken Yamaguchi*, Robert A. Adams, Bernard F. Morrey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to review our experience with the treatment of twenty-five infections (in twenty-five patients) after total elbow arthroplasty and to examine indications for salvage of the prosthesis compared with those for resection arthroplasty. The patients were divided into three groups on the basis of treatment. Group I comprised fourteen patients who were managed with multiple, extensive irrigation and debridement procedures with retention of the original components. The primary indication for retention of the prosthesis was evidence that it was well fixed as determined both radiographically and intraoperatively. Group II comprised six patients who had removal of the prosthesis and debridement followed by immediate or staged reimplantation. Group III comprised five patients who were managed with resection arthroplasty. The infection was successfully eradicated in seven of the fourteen elbows that had salvage of the prosthesis with irrigation and debridement. The results were strongly dependent on the causative organism; attempts at debridement failed in the four elbows that were infected with Staphylococcus epidermidis compared with three of the ten that were infected with another organism. Four of the six patients in Group II had successful reimplantation of a prosthesis; in three, the infection had been caused by an organism other than Staphylococcus epidermidis. Only one of the three patients who had a Staphylococcus epidermidis infection had a successful reimplantation. None of the five patients who had a resection arthroplasty had signs of infection at the latest follow-up examination. We concluded that salvage of the prosthesis with extensive irrigation and debridement in the presence of an infection about the elbow can be reasonably successful if the infecting organism is not Staphylococcus epidermidis and if the components are well fixed. When removal of the components is warranted, staged reimplantation can also be highly successful when the infecting organism is not Staphylococcus epidermidis. However, the repeated operations necessary to retain a prosthesis and the high rates of complications seen with this approach - and the relatively good rates of satisfaction obtained with resection arthroplasty suggest that resection arthroplasty remains the procedure of choice in medically frail patients or in patients for whom function of the elbow is less of a concern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-491
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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