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Prospective randomised trial of non-operative versus operative management of olecranon fractures in the elderly

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The aim of this prospective randomised controlled trial was to compare non-operative and operative management for acute isolated displaced fractures of the olecranon in patients aged ≥ 75 years.

Patients and Methods

Patients were randomised to either non-operative management or operative management with either tension-band wiring or fixation with a plate. They were reviewed at six weeks, three and six months and one year after the injury. The primary outcome measure was the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) score at one year.


A total of 19 patients were randomised to non-operative (n = 8) or operative (n = 11; tension-band wiring (n = 9), plate (n = 2)) management. The trial was stopped prematurely as the rate of complications (nine out of 11, 81.8%) in the operative group was considered to be unacceptable. There was, however, no difference in the mean DASH scores between the groups at all times. The mean score was 23 (0 to 59.6) in the non-operative group and 22 (2.5 to 57.8) in the operative group, one year after the injury (p = 0.763). There was no significant difference between groups in the secondary outcome measures of the Broberg and Morrey Score or the Mayo Elbow Score at any time during the one year following injury (all p ≥ 0.05).


These data further support the role of primary non-operative management of isolated displaced fractures of the olecranon in the elderly. However, the non-inferiority of non-operative management cannot be proved as the trial was stopped prematurely.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2017;99-B:964–72.

Correspondence should be sent to A. D. Duckworth; email:

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