A new technique for elbow fracture surgery | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - December 2003

A new technique for elbow fracture surgery

It was at the Wrightington that John Charnley developed the hip replacement operation with Action Medical Research-funding, and today Professor John Stanley and his team are continuing this honourable tradition.

Fractures of the elbow are very common across all ages, and when very severe they may cause an unstable elbow. This instability can lead to a lot of pain and the early development of arthritis.


Currently available surgery techniques for elbow fractures can themselves lead to an unstable elbow. This means that following surgery, patients are slower to mobilise their elbows and may be left with ongoing pain and instability which is very difficult to treat — leaving patients with a longer rehabilitation period.

These Action Medical Researchers have developed a new approach to elbow surgery (the Wrightington approach). Unlike current treatment, this technique does not divide the elbow ligaments which are important for elbow stability. Additionally, ^the new technique allows the surgeon to see more of the bone which makes for more accurate surgery^.

Elbow stability

Charalambos Charalambous, a researcher on the project, told us, “The aim of our study is to compare the current treatment with this new approach developed by Professor Stanley to see whether elbow stability can be improved.

“If we can show that the new technique is better than the old one, or even equivalent to it, then we hope the technique will be adopted by other surgeons across the UK as there are additional benefits we think, namely the improved access the surgeon gets to the bone.”

The Wrightington Hospital tends to have more complex cases referred to it, and this, combined with a strong academic culture within the hospital, has brought the Wrightington to national attention for its pioneering work. Charalambos explains, “During surgery we see new ideas coming out all the time. With the Action Medical Research funding we hope to see these ideas turned into new clinical practice.”

Help us spread the word