Elbow replacement surgery is a procedure to treat elbow pain and immobility from arthritis, trauma or fracture. In many cases, arthroscopic surgery can be done to remove damaged bone or cartilage, but if the damage is severe, a partial or full elbow replacement may be required.
Elbow replacement surgery involves the removal of damaged bone fragments, bone surfaces and cartilage and replacing them with artificial implants. One part of the implant fits onto the humerus and the other fits onto the ulna, the upper and lower parts of the arm. The two parts are connected through a locking pin and they create a hinge to allow for arm movement.
Some cases may only require a partial elbow replacement, where just one portion of the joint is damaged enough to require an implant. There are two types of artificial implants, they are:
Linked – This is where all of the parts are connected to create one conjoined hinge. This provides excellent stability but can loosen over time and with high impact use.
Unlinked – This device comes in separate parts and relies on the surrounding ligaments to hold the devices together.
Several conditions can lead to elbow pain and instability that may be best treated with a partial or full replacement surgery.
Osteoarthritis – An age-related condition that causes elbow cartilage to weaken and wear away. This may lead to bones rubbing together and causing pain or elbow disability.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – A disease that causes chronic inflammation to the elbow joint that can damage cartilage and cause pain and stiffness.
Post-traumatic Arthritis – A type of arthritis that is caused by a previous elbow injury. Bone fractures or ligament injuries can lead to damage of the surrounding cartilage and lead to pain.
Severe Fractures – Damage or a break to the lower portion of the arm. Shattered bones are difficult to repair and may need artificial replacement.
Elbow replacement surgery recovery times may vary but generally full use of the repaired elbow is possible within 12 weeks. It will be best to avoid high impact activities for around six months to reduce the probability of poor healing and loosening of artificial implants.
For short-term pain management, pain medications may be prescribed, including opioids, ibuprofen and NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs). Your doctor will work with you to find the right pain management treatment.
A careful and well-planned recovery program will be critical to making a full recovery following surgery. It is very important to begin physical therapy as soon as possible following the procedure and to follow a home exercise plan to build elbow strength and mobility.
Orthopedic care experts at Banner Health will work with you to treat your elbow pain and discomfort. We are dedicated to finding the source of your elbow condition and designing a treatment plan to relieve pain and restore mobility as quickly as possible.