The effects of a radial head component on total elbow arthroplasty kinematics and stability were evaluated using an anatomic design unlinked total elbow prosthesis. An electromagnetic tracking device recorded motion and varus and valgus displacements under various conditions in 10 cadaveric elbows. The motion patterns of the intact elbows and the Sorbie-QuestorTM total elbow prostheses with a radial head component were similar, as both tended to have a valgus position in extension, varus at midflexion, and more valgus toward full flexion. Under conditions of simulated muscle loading, the maximum valgus and varus laxity of the elbowbow prosthesis was, on average, 8.6° ± 4.0° greater than normal. Without the radial head component, however, significant kinematic disturbances and instabilities were seen. The varus and valgus displacements were 13.3° ± 5.5° greater than the intact elbows. One total elbow arthroplasty without a radial head dislocated during testing. Increasing the muscle loading across the elbow significantly enhanced dynamic stability of the total elbow arthroplasties, especially in the extension half of elbow motion where instability is greatest. However, this dynamic enhancement of stability was seen only in those elbows in which the radial head component had been implanted. The radial head component is an important stabilizer, particularly in extension for this prosthesis, and possibly for other unlinked total elbow prostheses. Although instability of unlinked prostheses depends on the prosthetic design, the use of a radial head replacement may be an important factor in preventing such instability. Perhaps even more importantly, a radial head component balances the load distribution across the articulation, which could decrease stress on the ulnohumeral articulation and therefore possibly reduce polyethylene wear, osteolysis, and loosening.
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