What is the Lateral Ulnar Collateral Ligament and what does it do?
The main ligament stabilizer on the outside of the elbow is called the lateral ulnar collateral ligament (LUCL.) The LUCL extends from the back of the epicondyle (where the ligament attaches to the bone) to the to the supinator crest of the ulna, (muscle in the forearm.)
It travels across the back of the radial head–another bone in the forearm. The LUCLs job is to keep the elbow from sliding out of place while putting stress on the joint. For instance, patients may experience problems from a stretched or torn LUCL when pushing themselves out of a chair. A loose or unstable lateral ulnar collateral ligament results in an elbow that won’t stay in place through the entire range of motion. Patients in Manchester, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities may feel the elbow slide out of place while attempting certain activities. Dr. James Mazzara, elbow surgeon, can treat patients who have this problem with a surgical procedure called lateral ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction.
What is a lateral ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction?
After an elbow dislocation, when the elbow is put back in place, the LUCL will usually heal enough on its own that it does not need to be fixed with surgery. On occasion, however, the LUCL will remain loose, resulting in an unstable elbow that will not keep the elbow in its proper position. In these cases, the most reliable way to treat this injury is by performing a lateral ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction.
Depending on the patient and the LUCL injury, Dr. Mazzara can perform this treatment with a minimally invasive repair surgery. Dr. Mazzara will reconstruct the damaged ligament with a tissue graft. An autograft is taken from the patient, from another part of the body (usually the forearm, wrist or knee) or an allograft can be used from a donated tendon. The new tendon is passed through bone tunnels, made by Dr. Mazzara, where the torn ligament was attached on the humerus (arm bone) and ulna (forearm bone.) The new tendon creates a loop that is sewn back together and anchored in the elbow in a procedure called a docking technique.
Are you a candidate for lateral ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction?
There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Mazzara:
You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review with Dr. Mazzara.
You can schedule an office consultation with Dr. Mazzara.
How long is the recovery after LUCL reconstruction?
As with any ligament reconstruction, healing time can vary depending on the patient age, level of activity and prior damage to LUCL and elbow joint. Dr. Mazzara offers the following post-operative timeline as a general guideline:
- Immediately after surgery the arm will be placed in a brace and sling to keep the elbow immobile for proper healing.
- Medication to alleviate pain may be needed, please take as directed by Dr. Mazzara and his orthopedic team.
- 7-10 days after surgery, Dr. Mazzara will see the patient and remove any sutures and check on the healing of the graft.
- Physical therapy should begin without pushing, pulling or lifting heavy objects. Dr. Mazzara and his team will give the patient specific instructions for the best possible outcome.
- Full recovery can be expected after lateral ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction in about 3 months.
For more information on lateral ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, please contact the offices of Dr. James Mazzara, orthopedic elbow surgeon, treating patients in Manchester, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities.