Scientific Articles   |    
Clinical Presentation of Posterolateral Rotatory Instability of the Elbow in Children
Lisa L. Lattanza, MD1; Charles A. Goldfarb, MD2; Mia Smucny, MD3; Douglas T. Hutchinson, MD4
1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California San Francisco Medical Center, 1500 Owens Street, Box 3004, San Francisco, CA 94158. E-mail address: Lattanza@orthosurg.ucsf.edu
2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 Euclid Avenue, Campus Box 8233, St. Louis, MO 63110
3 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California San Francisco Medical Center, 500 Parnassus Avenue, Campus Box 0728, San Francisco, CA 94143
4 Department of Orthopaedics, University of Utah, 590 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
View Disclosures and Other Information
  • Disclosure statement for author(s): PDF

Investigation performed at Shriners Hospitals for Children of Northern California, Sacramento, California; Primary Children’s Medical Center, Salt Lake City, Utah; and Shriners Hospitals for Children of St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. None of the authors, or their institution(s), have had any financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with any entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. Also, no author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2013 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2013 Aug 07;95(15):e105-1-7. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.L.00623
5 Recommendations (Recommend) | 3 Comments | Saved by 3 Users Save Case



Posterolateral rotatory instability is a type of ulnohumeral instability seen following elbow trauma. It is caused by a deficiency in the lateral collateral ligament complex that allows the radius and ulna to subluxate as a single unit with respect to the distal part of the humerus. There are few studies on this type of instability in children. Our purpose was to evaluate cases of posterolateral rotatory instability in children to better understand its presentation and manifestation as compared with those in adults.


This was a retrospective chart review of patients from three academic centers. Eligible for inclusion were patients with a diagnosis of posterolateral rotatory instability who were treated with lateral ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction when they were less than nineteen years of age.


Nine patients met the inclusion criteria. The mean age at the initial injury was ten years, and the average time from the initial injury to the final operation was 3.7 years. Six patients had prior elbow dislocation, and three had an isolated elbow fracture. Six of the nine patients had a forearm or elbow contracture. Only one patient had a positive pivot-shift test during the preoperative office examination, but all had a positive pivot-shift test when examined under anesthesia. Six had radiographic evidence of posterolateral rotatory instability. All patients underwent lateral ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction. At the time of follow-up, at a minimum of one year after the ligament reconstruction, there was no evidence of deformity secondary to early physeal closure and all elbows remained stable.


Although posterolateral rotatory instability of the elbow is rare, it does exist in children. The instability may not always be recognized because of masking by contracture but, as is the case with adult patients, radiographs may show evidence of the instability. In children with contracture, the clinician should consider the possibility of a masked posterolateral rotatory instability and plan accordingly at the time of contracture release. Surgical correction is technically difficult, and traditional ligament reconstruction in skeletally immature patients may pose a risk to the lateral humeral condylar and epicondylar physes.

Level of Evidence: 

Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Figures in this Article
    Sign In to Your Personal ProfileSign In To Access Full Content
    Not a Subscriber?
    Get online access for 30 days for $35
    New to JBJS?
    Sign up for a full subscription to both the print and online editions
    Register for a FREE limited account to get full access to all CME activities, to comment on public articles, or to sign up for alerts.
    Register for a FREE limited account to get full access to all CME activities
    Have a subscription to the print edition?
    Current subscribers to The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery in either the print or quarterly DVD formats receive free online access to JBJS.org.
    Forgot your password?
    Enter your username and email address. We'll send you a reminder to the email address on record.

    Forgot your username or need assistance? Please contact customer service at subs@jbjs.org. If your access is provided
    by your institution, please contact you librarian or administrator for username and password information. Institutional
    administrators, to reset your institution's master username or password, please contact subs@jbjs.org


    Accreditation Statement
    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
    CME Activities Associated with This Article
    Submit a Comment
    Please read the other comments before you post yours. Contributors must reveal any conflict of interest.
    Comments are moderated and will appear on the site at the discretion of JBJS editorial staff.

    * = Required Field
    (if multiple authors, separate names by comma)
    Example: John Doe

    Related Content
    The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery
    JBJS Case Connector
    Topic Collections
    Related Audio and Videos
    Clinical Trials
    Readers of This Also Read...
    JBJS Jobs
    S. Carolina - Department of Orthopaedic Surgery Medical Univerity of South Carlonina
    W. Virginia - Charleston Area Medical Center
    District of Columbia (DC) - Children's National Medical Center
    New York - Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai