Biomechanical considerations in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis of the elbow

Andras Heijink*, Matthias Vanhees, Kimberly van den Ende, Michel P. van den Bekerom, Roger P. van Riet, C. Niek Van Dijk, Denise Eygendaal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease and a major cause of disability. Distinct biological processes are considered crucial for the development of osteoarthritis and are assumed to act in concert with additional risk factors to induce expression of the disease. In the classical weightbearing joints, one such risk factor is an unfavourable biomechanical environment about the joint. While the elbow has long been considered a non-weightbearing joint, it is now assumed that the tissues of the upper extremity may be stressed to similar levels as those of the lower limb, and that forces across the elbow are in fact very high when the joint is extended from a flexed position. This review examined the available basic science, preclinical and clinical evidence regarding the role of several unfavourable biomechanical conditions about the elbow on the development of osteoarthritis: post-traumatic changes, osteochondritis dissecans, instability or laxity and malalignment. Post-traumatic osteoarthritis following fractures is well recognized, however, the role of overload or repetitive microtrauma as risk factors for post-traumatic osteoarthritis is unclear. The natural course of untreated cartilage defects in general, and osteochondritis dissecans at the elbow in particular, remains incompletely understood to date. However, larger lesions and older age seem to be associated with more symptoms and radiographic changes in the long term. Instability seems to play a role, although the association between instability and osteoarthritis is not yet clearly defined. No data are available on the association of malalignment and osteoarthritis, but based on force estimations across the elbow joint, it seems reasonable to assume an association.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2313-2318
Number of pages6
JournalKnee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Aetiology
  • Cartilage
  • Instability
  • Malalignment
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Pathology
  • Post-traumatic


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