Elbow replacement

What is elbow replacement surgery?

Elbow replacement surgery involves replacing and repairing the damaged parts of the elbow joint. This surgery aims to relive pain caused by conditions such as arthritis. The damaged joint is replaced with an artificial joint made from two implants that are attached to the bones. The implants are joined by a metal and plastic hinge. The procedure is similar to hip and knee replacement surgery.

Why would you need elbow replacement surgery?

Elbow replacement surgery will be recommended if non-surgical treatments have failed to relieve pain. Pain in the elbow can be caused by:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Wear and tear arthritis (osteoarthritis)
  • Injury-related arthritis or instability
  • Severe elbow fractures
  • Failed previous elbow replacement surgery. This is known as revision elbow replacement.

What does elbow replacement surgery involve?

An incision is made at the back of the elbow, through which the muscles are gently moved to allow access to the joint. Once any scar tissue around the joint has been removed, the implants will be installed. The stems of the implant are placed into the humerus and ulna bones, and kept in place with special cement. Both stems are connected by a hinge. Sometimes a temporary draining tube is placed in the wound where the incision was made, which is removed after the first few days following surgery.

How to prepare for elbow replacement surgery

Before surgery certain medications will have to be stopped. It is also important to make sure your home is prepared to allow a smooth recovery, such as placing objects you need on lower level shelves. Surgery is carried out under either general anaesthetic or regional anaesthetic.

Post-operative care

After surgery, antibiotics are given to reduce any chances of infection. Pain management medication will be prescribed for the short-term as well as a level of pain is expected during the healing process. During recovery certain exercises that help with mobility and strength need to be carried out. Physcial therapy sessions will help show you how these exercises work.

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