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Shoulder & Elbow

Reliability and validity of the Wrightington classification of elbow fracture-dislocation

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The Wrightington classification system of fracture-dislocations of the elbow divides these injuries into six subtypes depending on the involvement of the coronoid and the radial head. The aim of this study was to assess the reliability and reproducibility of this classification system.


This was a blinded study using radiographs and CT scans of 48 consecutive patients managed according to the Wrightington classification system between 2010 and 2018. Four trauma and orthopaedic consultants, two post CCT fellows, and one speciality registrar based in the UK classified the injuries. The seven observers reviewed preoperative radiographs and CT scans twice, with a minimum four-week interval. Radiographs and CT scans were reviewed separately. Inter- and intraobserver reliability were calculated using Fleiss and Cohen kappa coefficients. The Landis and Koch criteria were used to interpret the strength of the kappa values. Validity was assessed by calculating the percentage agreement against intraoperative findings.


Of the 48 patients, three (6%) had type A injury, 11 (23%) type B, 16 (33%) type B+, 16 (33%) Type C, two (4%) type D+, and none had a type D injury. All 48 patients had anteroposterior (AP) and lateral radiographs, 44 had 2D CT scans, and 39 had 3D reconstructions. The interobserver reliability kappa value was 0.52 for radiographs, 0.71 for 2D CT scans, and 0.73 for a combination of 2D and 3D reconstruction CT scans. The median intraobserver reliability was 0.75 (interquartile range (IQR) 0.62 to 0.79) for radiographs, 0.77 (IQR 0.73 to 0.94) for 2D CT scans, and 0.89 (IQR 0.77 to 0.93) for the combination of 2D and 3D reconstruction. Validity analysis showed that accuracy significantly improved when using CT scans (p = 0.018 and p = 0.028 respectively).


The Wrightington classification system is a reliable and valid method of classifying fracture-dislocations of the elbow. CT scans are significantly more accurate than radiographs when identifying the pattern of injury, with good intra- and interobserver reproducibility.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(8):1041–1047.

Correspondence should be sent to Zaid Hamoodi. E-mail:

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