As one of the major and most-used joints in the human body, elbows take a lot of wear and tear, and injury – whether to the tendons, ligaments, muscles, or even bones – is common. In some cases, home treatment isn’t enough, and surgery becomes necessary.
Surgery may be recommended when chronic elbow pain is an issue, and other, less invasive methods aren’t sufficient. Rest, icing, over the counter pain medication, physical therapy, and massage are some of the initial steps taken to treat elbow pain, but when these don’t work there are a few surgical options.
Arthroscopy is one type of surgery, in which a tiny camera is inserted into the elbow joint and transmits images to a TV screen, which the surgeon uses as a guide while navigating small surgical instruments. Arthroscopy is considered minimally invasive surgery, and because the tools are so small and don’t require the whole area to be exposed, incisions – and therefore scars – are much smaller. It also has the benefit of a quicker and, often, less painful recovery time. Some elbow conditions are better suited to arthroscopy than open surgery; these include both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, tennis elbow, and removing foreign objects like scar tissue, bone fragments, or loose cartilage.
Some elbow conditions are better candidates for traditional, or open surgery. Open surgery is often used for repairing fractures and resurfacing the joint, as well as repairing ligaments and decompressing the funny bone nerve. Golfer’s elbow is also usually treated with open surgery, as is joint replacement, which may be necessary due to damage from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. In more advanced or complicated cases, a combination of arthroscopic and traditional surgical methods may be used.
If you need surgery to treat an elbow condition, your doctor will go over the benefits and risks of each type of surgery to determine which is the best option for your particular injury.