Tobacco use predicts poorer clinical outcomes and higher post-operative complication rates after open elbow arthrolysis.


Tobacco use is a worldwide public health problem, and has been found to be a predisposing factor for adverse functional outcomes and increased postoperative complication rates after various orthopedic operations. The purpose of this study was to determine the potential impact of tobacco use on open arthrolysis for post-traumatic elbow stiffness.

Materials And Methods

A database search identified 145 patients with open arthrolysis performed for post-traumatic elbow stiffness; these were divided into three groups: current tobacco users (37), former users (28), and nonusers (80). All surgeries were performed using the same technique by the same doctor. General patient data, functional performance, and complications were documented and analyzed.


Demographic data and disease characteristics were comparable at baseline. Postoperatively, significant differences were found among the three groups in terms of range of motion (P < 0.001), Mayo Elbow Performance Score (P = 0.006), visual analog scale score for pain (P = 0.015), Dellon classification for ulnar nerve symptoms (P = 0.013), and total complication rates (P < 0.001). The current tobacco users group had the poorest clinical outcomes and highest complication rates, while no significant differences were found between former users and nonusers.


Current tobacco users reported increased risk of poorer clinical outcomes and higher postoperative complication rates after open arthrolysis. Former users were found to have outcomes similar to those of nonusers. This study underlines the importance of discontinuing tobacco use for patients with post-traumatic elbow stiffness who are considering open arthrolysis.

Level Of Evidence

Level III; Retrospective Cohort Design; Therapeutic Study.