Lateral Ulnar Collateral Ligament Tears/ Elbow Instability

Lateral Ulnar Collateral Ligament Tears/ Elbow Instability

What is the Lateral Ulnar Collateral Ligament (LUCL)?

Also known as “not the Tommy John ligament”, this is a ligament on the outside part of the elbow.  It is often damaged in elbow dislocations, radial head fractures and otherwise minor falls onto the outstretched palm.

What are the symptoms of LUCL tears?

When associated with dislocations or fractures, general elbow pain is the primary symptom.  However, isolated LUCL tears are often misdiagnosed due to their subtle symptoms.  Mild pain or clicking when pushing off from a chair or performing a push-up can be the primary symptom in isolated LUCL tears.  Another common scenario is clicking or pain after tennis elbow surgery as the LUCL can be inadvertently damaged during these procedures.  MRI and physical exam in the office can usually confirm diagnosis of these injuries.

How are these injuries treated?

Low-grade tears are often treated with physical therapy and bracing.  PRP injections are frequently an important adjunct to nonsurgical management of these injuries once the diagnosis is confirmed.

When is surgery necessary?

In acute injuries associated with fractures or dislocations, these ligaments are often directly repaired during surgery for the associated injuries. In isolated or chronic situations, reconstruction of the ligament using a donor ligament from your wrist or knee may be necessary.  This is an outpatient procedure which takes about 60 minutes.  A splint is worn for several weeks followed by bracing and physical therapy.  Full recovery and return to sports requires 3-4 months.

Dr. Bak is one of the Midwest’s most experienced surgeons for this condition.