Borough hospital team gets £1.75m elbow surgery research grant

Wrightington Hospital will research broken elbow repair techniques
Wrightington Hospital will research broken elbow repair techniques

A team at Wrightington Hospital has been awarded a massive £1.75m in research funding to look at different ways of repairing a broken elbow.

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), will be a joint enterprise between the local medics and the University of York.

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It will compare two methods of repairing fractures of the olecranon (the bony point of the elbow) to see which is best to keep the bone in the correct position. The most common method of repair, is securing the bone using a tension band wiring technique.

While this can be effective in holding the position for the fracture to heal, some patients can experience pain when leaning on the elbow, as the wires lie just under the skin.

Approximately one in three patients will require a second operation. This not only carries surgical risks and inconvenience to the patient, but also an increased cost to the National Health Service.

An alternative method is to hold the bone in place using a very strong material cord (tension suture fixation) to help to stop the muscle forces which are pulling the bone out of position.

The research aims to determine whether this alternative technique is as effective for fixing the fracture.

Prof Adam Watts, consultant elbow and upper limb surgeon at Wrightington Hospital said: “We are delighted to be have been awarded this prestigious national grant to run the project in collaboration with the University of York.

“Smaller studies of the tension suture fixation technique have previously been carried out.

“The studies have shown that this method of repair can reliably hold the bones in a good position while they heal and it may be that the need for further surgery is reduced, but this research is needed to investigate this further.

“The findings of the study may have benefits to patients and to the NHS as a whole.

Prof Watts, who is also the Research Lead for Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust’s specialist services division, added: “We will be recruiting to the trial from May 2020.

“The new study will take place over four and a half years with 280 patients in up to 35 NHS hospitals around the country. This is a randomised trial and will assess how well patients are able to return to their daily activities, the impact on their quality of life and the costs to the NHS.”

Patients with elbow fractures participating in the trial will be randomly allocated to one of two groups. One will receive fixation with metal wires and the other fixation with strong cord.