Clinical Utility of an MRI-Based Classification System for Operative Versus Nonoperative Management of Ulnar Collateral Ligament Tears: A 2-Year Follow-up Study
Ramkumar PN., Haeberle HS., Navarro SM., Frangiamore SJ., Farrow LD., Schickendantz MS.
© The Author(s) 2019. Background: A recently introduced classification system of medial ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears accounting for location and severity has demonstrated high interobserver and intraobserver reliability, but little is known about its clinical utility. Purpose: The primary purpose of this study was to assess the relationship of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)–based classification system in predicting which athletes had success with nonoperative versus operative treatment after completing a standardized rehabilitation program. A secondary objective included return to play (RTP) and return to prior performance (RPP) analyses of baseball players. Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3. Methods: After an a priori power analysis, 58 consecutive patients with UCL tears and a minimum of 2-year follow-up were retrospectively divided into 2 groups: those who successfully completed operative treatment and those who completed nonoperative treatment. The MRI-based classification stages accounting for UCL tear location and severity were compared between the nonoperative and operative groups. A subanalysis for baseball players, including RTP and RPP, was performed. Results: A total of 58 patients (40 baseball players [34 pitchers]) met inclusion criteria. Of these patients 35 (32 baseball players [27 pitchers]) underwent surgery, and 23 (8 baseball players [7 pitchers]) underwent nonoperative management. No patients in the nonoperative arm crossed over to surgery after completing the rehabilitation program. Patients with distal tears (odds ratio, 48.0; P =.0004) and complete tears (odds ratio, 5.4; P =.004) were more likely to undergo surgery. Baseball players, regardless of position, were confounding determinants of operative management, although there was no difference in RTP and RPP between treatment arms. Conclusion: A 6-stage MRI-based classification system addressing UCL tear location and severity may help early decision making, as patients likely to fail nonoperative treatment have complete, distal tears, whereas those with proximal, partial tears may be more amenable to nonoperative management.