Terrible Triad of Elbow

xray-elbow-lat-terrible triad

Terrible triad of Elbow is a traumatic injury pattern of the elbow characterized by:

  • Posterolateral dislocation
  • Radial head fracture
  • Coronoid fracture

The elbow is a 3-dimensionally complex joint where stiffness is poorly tolerated and instability is devastating. Although multiple periarticular fracture patterns and soft tissue injuries of the elbow have been described, the combination of coronoid process fracture, radial head fracture, and elbow dislocation has earned the moniker “terrible triad” by virtue of its challenging treatment and historically poor outcomes. This injury represents a failure of each bony and ligamentous stabilizer of the elbow; therefore, treatment must restore sufficient stability to permit early motion, thereby avoiding disabling stiffness.

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