ELBOW

THE ELBOW

The elbow is the hinge-joint of the arm where the humerus (upper arm bone) and the radius and ulna (forearm bones) are connected. Allowing the hand to move towards and away from the body, as well as giving the forearm the freedom to twist, it is one of the most essential joint complexes in the human body. The elbow is subject to being overworked and, because it is not protected by layers of muscle and fat in the same way as most other joints, it is often prone to injuries.

While many afflictions of the elbow can be treated using more conservative methods, some may require minimally invasive surgery to effectively relieve pain and restore function to the joint for significant, lasting results.

Common elbow injuries include:

  • Fractures
  • Dislocation
  • Biceps Tendonitis
  • Biceps Tendon Rupture
  • Bursitis
  • Epicondylitis

COMMON CONDITIONS

Tennis Elbow

Medically referred to as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is an injury that results from overuse and repetitive stress of the tendons that attach at the elbow joint. This painful condition affects the lateral epicondyle, the area where the tendons of the forearm connect to the bony outer portion of the elbow. Although most commonly seen in tennis-playing adults aged 30-50, tennis elbow can affect anyone who continually stresses their elbow joint in a repetitive manner.

Golfer’s Elbow

Commonly referred to as golfer’s elbow, medial epicondylitis, is a form of tendonitis similar to tennis elbow, however, it develops on the inner side of the elbow at the medial epicondyle. Golfer’s elbow is brought on by overuse and repetitive tight gripping of the forearm in activities such as golf, baseball or other sports, but occupational activities can also be a cause.

COMMON PROCEDURES

Elbow Arthroscopy

Elbow arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure generally used for simple manipulations of the joint such as removal of bone fragments, fracture care and debridement. It can also be used to examine or confirm abnormalities of the joint to assist in providing a proper diagnosis or to ensure quick and effective postoperative patient recovery.

Fracture Repair

Due to its delicate nature and exposure, the olecranon (elbow bone) is vulnerable to fractures that usually result in swelling, intense pain and limited arm mobility. If a fracture is suspected, your doctor will perform a physical examination, paired with x-ray imaging, to confirm a fracture diagnosis. While conservative methods such as immobilization and icing can be used to repair most fractures, surgery may be required for more severe cases.

Tommy John Surgery

Named after Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John, this procedure is performed to repair torn ligaments in the elbow. Tommy John Surgery can effectively relieve pain and instability in  patients with a torn or damaged ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). A torn UCL most commonly affects baseball pitchers, and is potentially career-ending if severe enough.
The Tommy John procedure uses the tendon in the forearm to essentially recreate the damaged ligament and restore stability to the joint. Although often requiring a long recovery period (12 – 18 months), most patients achieve successful results from this procedure and are able to return to pre-injury activities.

Biceps Tendon Surgery

The biceps tendon attaches muscles to the shoulder where it helps the elbow bend and assists with forearm rotation. Surgical treatment for a biceps tendon injury is dependent upon the type and severity of the condition. Procedures may range from being as simple as shaving away any torn fibers, cleaning up the area where the torn tendon attaches, and reattaching the remaining tendon, to having to completely reattaching torn tendons with the assistance of screws and other hardware.

Total Elbow Replacement

Elbow replacement is used to repair severely damaged elbow joints affected by tumors, osteoarthritis, tissue tears, fractures or other serious conditions. Performed under general anesthesia, an elbow replacement procedure is done by removing the damaged bone ends from the joint and replacing them with a prosthetic device that is connected with a hinge and held in place with bone cement. After elbow joint replacement, patients will need to undergo a period of physical therapy to restore stability and strength to the joint prior to returning to physical activity.