Early mobilisation for elbow fractures in adults (Review)

Paula Harding, Tshepo Rasekaba, Lorena Smirneos, Anne E. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


A fall on the outstretched arm can result in an elbow fracture. Loss of elbow function is a common problem with these fractures and can have major implications for functional capabilities. It is unknown whether early mobilisation can improve functional outcome without increasing complications. To compare the effects (benefits and harms) of early mobilisation versus delayed mobilisation of the elbow after elbow fractures in adults. We searched the Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group Specialised Register (August 2010), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library 2010, Issue 2), MEDLINE (1950 to August 2010), EMBASE (1980 to August 2010), CINAHL (1982 to June 2010), PEDro (31 May 2010), and ongoing trials registers (April 2010). We included randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials evaluating early mobilisation of the elbow joint after elbow fracture in adults. Two authors independently selected trials, assessed risk of bias and extracted data. There was no pooling of data. We included one trial reporting outcome at follow-up times ranging between two and 47 months for 81 participants with Mason type 1 and 2 radial head fractures. This poorly-reported trial was at particular high risk of detection and reporting biases. The trial found no significant differences between early and delayed mobilisation in the numbers of participants with pain or limitations in their range of elbow motion. All participants were reported as being able to use their arms for full activities of daily living and none had changed their occupation or lifestyle. There was no mention of fracture complications. There is a lack of robust evidence to inform on the timing of mobilisation, and specifically on the use of early mobilisation, after non-surgical or surgical treatment for adults with elbow fractures.There is a need for high quality, well-reported, adequately powered, randomised controlled trials that compare early versus delayed mobilisation in people with commonly-occurring elbow fractures, treated with or without surgery. Trials should use validated upper limb function scales, and assessment should be both short-term (to monitor recovery and early complications) and long-term (at least one year).

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD008130
Number of pages26
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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