The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to pool and analyze outcomes and complication rates in elderly patients with intraarticular distal humerus fractures being treated with either total elbow arthroplasty (TEA) or open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) with locking plates.PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane databases were used. The search included publications up to June 2013. Article selection was independently performed by 2 authors and disagreements were resolved by consensus.Studies meeting criteria for inclusion were observational cohort studies or randomized controlled trials evaluating functional and radiographic outcomes and complications in elderly patients treated for distal humerus fractures with either primary TEA or ORIF with locking plates. Studies with mean age <60 years, indications for TEA other than acute fracture, and those including nonlocked plates were excluded.Standardized data extraction was performed. A quality assessment tool was used to evaluate individual study methodology.Descriptive statistics for functional outcomes were reported. Meta-analysis and regression analysis were performed for complication rates.A systematic review and meta-analysis revealed that TEA and ORIF for the treatment of geriatric distal humerus fractures produced similar functional outcome scores and range of motion. Although there was a trend toward a higher rate of major complications and reoperation after ORIF, this was not statistically significant. The quality of study methodology was generally weak. Ongoing research including prospective trials and cost analysis is indicated to better define the roles of ORIF versus TEA in the management of these injuries.
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