Ulnar neuropathy at the elbow (UNE) is common, affecting 1%–6% of the population. Despite this, there remains a lack of consensus regarding optimal treatment. This is primarily due to the difficulty one encounters when trying to assess the literature. Outcomes are inconsistently reported, which makes comparing studies or developing meta-analyses difficult or even impossible. Thus, there is a need for a core outcome set (COS) for UNE (COS-UNE) to help address this problem. The objective of this study was to utilize a modified Delphi method to develop COS-UNE.
A 5-stage approach was utilized to develop COS-UNE: stage 1, consortium development; 2, literature review to identify potential outcome measures; 3, Delphi survey to develop consensus on outcomes for inclusion; 4, Delphi survey to develop definitions; and 5, consensus meeting to finalize the COS and definitions. The study followed the Core Outcome Set-STAndards for Development (COS-STAD) recommendations.
The Core Outcomes in Nerve Surgery (COINS) Consortium comprised 21 participants, all neurological surgeons representing 11 countries. The final COS-UNE consisted of 22 data points/outcomes covering the domains of demographic characteristics, diagnostics, patient-reported outcomes, motor/sensory outcomes, and complications. Appropriate instruments, methods of testing, and definitions were set. The consensus minimum duration of follow-up was 6 months, with the consensus optimal timepoints for assessment identified as preoperatively and 3, 6, and 12 months postoperatively.
The authors identified consensus data points/outcomes and also provided definitions and specific scales to be utilized to help ensure that clinicians are consistent in their reporting across studies on UNE. This COS should serve as a minimum set of data to be collected in all future neurosurgical studies on UNE. The authors hope that clinicians evaluating ulnar neuropathy will incorporate this COS into routine practice and that future studies will consider this COS in the design phase.