The elbow consists of three compartments: the humerus, the ulna, and the radius. These bones provide two types of motion. The humerus and the ulna allow for hinge-type motion, such as flexing and bending the arm. The humerus and the radius allow rotational motion. The joint surfaces are covered by cartilage, which provides a cushion between the bones. The cartilage can become damaged by various events, including fracture or rheumatoid arthritis. Over time, the damaged cartilage can deteriorate and lead to a loss in motion and pain in the elbow.
Is Elbow Surgery For you?
Most patients don't need elbow surgery. Elbow pain and discomforts can usually be eased through gentle exercise and physical therapy. Surgery occurs only when the pain has not been relieved. The decision to have elbow surgery should be a cooperative one made between you, your family, your family physician, and your orthopedic surgeon.
Types of Surgery
Elbow Reconstructive Surgery
In elbow reconstructive surgery, the bones can be surgically restructured to shift stress away from diseased or damaged tissue to healthy tissue. But in some cases, elbow replacement surgery is necessary.
Elbow Replacement Surgery
The most common form of elbow surgery orthopedic surgeons perform are total elbow replacement. When elbow replacement surgery is required, the orthopedic surgeons remove damaged cartilage and damaged parts of the humerus, ulna, and radius and replaces them with an artificial implant. These implants can reduce or fully eliminate pain and restore motion.
Other Conditions Treated
There are several reasons why your doctor may recommend surgery. Patients who will benefit from elbow surgery often suffer from:
- Bone Fractures
Elbow fractures are crack's or breaks in the bones of the elbow joint. This can result from falling on an outstretched hand, falling on the elbow, or forcing the elbow joint to move in an unnatural way. Surgery is used to repair fractures that have moved the bones out of place.
- Loose Bodies
Bone or cartilage pieces that are loose inside the joint. If left inside, these bodies can restrict movement and cause pain. A surgeon can remove these loose bodies to help restore movement and relieve pain.
- Bone Spurs
Bone Spurs are growths in a joint that cause the bones to pinch one another, therefore restricting full motion of the elbow and causing pain. A surgeon can remove the spur and smooth out the surface of the bone to help restore motion and alleviate the pain.
OCD (osteoochondritis dissecans) occurs when a piece of bone can become loose because of an injury to the blood supply inside the joint. If left untreated, OCD will cause pain and swelling. A surgeon can either remove the bone or secure it in place to treat OCD.
The length of stay in the hospital is approximately three to four days. Patients are given a splint on their arm to help stabilize their elbow. Physical therapy will also be prescribed to help gain strength and use of the arm. Most patients start to have use of their new elbow as soon as 12 weeks.