Elbow surgery is recommended when you have a painful condition that does not respond to nonsurgical treatment. Nonsurgical treatment includes rest, physical therapy, and medications or injections that can reduce inflammation. Inflammation is one of your body’s normal reactions to injury or disease. In an injured or diseased elbow joint, inflammation causes swelling, pain, and stiffness.
Injury, overuse, and age-related wear and tear are responsible for most elbow problems. Elbow arthroscopy may relieve painful symptoms of many problems that damage the cartilage surfaces and other soft tissues surrounding the joint. Elbow arthroscopy may also be recommended to remove loose pieces of bone and cartilage, or release scar tissue that is blocking motion.
Common arthroscopic procedures include:
• Treatment of tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
• Removal of loose bodies (loose cartilage and bone fragments)
• Release of scar tissue to improve range of motion
• Treatment of osteoarthritis (wear and tear arthritis)
• Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory arthritis)
• Treatment of osteochondritis dissecans (activity related damage to the capitellum portion of the humerus seen in throwers or gymnasts)
Risks and Complications
As with any operation, a very small number of people may have problems after a shoulder or elbow joint replacement. Most of these problems are quite minor and can be treated easily. The main problems include:
• loosening of the replacement parts
• fracture of the bone during or after surgery
• poor healing of the wound
• wound haematoma (bleeding)
• Damage to nearby nerves causing temporary or, rarely, permanent loss of function. Your orthopaedic surgeon will discuss the risks with you in detail before you decide to have the operation.
In most cases, infections can be cleared up with tablets or injections of antibiotics. For a more serious infection you may need another operation to treat the infection and replace the components.