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Elbow Arthritis

Typical symptoms of elbow arthritis include:

  • Pain – Generally worse as you rotate the forearm.
  • As the condition progresses pain interrupts sleep during the night
  • Swelling (more common with rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Instability of the joint
  • Inability to extend or flex the elbow
  • Locking and stiffness

What does Elbow Arthroscopic Surgery involve?

  • Arthroscopic elbow surgery is designed at improving elbow stiffness and end range pain but not curing arthritis.
  • It is a day procedure where Dr Herald can look inside the joint using a small cut with instruments the width of a pencil.
  • Spurs and loose bodies are removed and tight adherent capsules are released.
  • The benefit of arthroscopic surgery includes a quicker recovery as only small punctures through the skin are used to access the joint as opposed to formal, open incisions.
  • Improved elbow range is obtained under anaesthesia but extensive post operative rehabilitation is needed to maintain this.
  • Following surgery, a period of continuous elbow range of motion with a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine is required to maintain motion and prevent recurrent scarring.

What does Elbow Replacement Surgery involve?

  • Elbow replacement surgery is usually done if your doctor has assessed your elbow as being badly damaged by osteoarthritis or if the pain is persistent and severe and you cannot use your arm.
  • Surgery may also be appropriate for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a badly broken bone in the upper or lower arm near the elbow, badly damaged or torn elbow tissues, a tumor or a very stiff elbow.
  • During a total elbow replacement procedure, the damaged parts of the elbow-hinged joint is removed and replaced with artificial components called prostheses.
  • Replacement options include a hemiarthoplasty where part of the joint is replaced not the olecranon (the bony point of the elbow); a total elbow arthroplasty where the end of the humerus and olecranon is replaced with a metal and plastic hinged joint.
  • The decision as to which prosthesis is used is dependent on your surgeon, the degree of your arthritis and your age.
  • As the elbow is a much smaller joint than a knee or a hip there is generally a 3kg lifting restriction applied following surgery to prevent the plastic wearing out too soon.