DAVE WATTS, MD
Elbow is the joint which connects forearm bones with upper arm bone. An important function of the elbow is to ensure movement of the arm backward, forward and facilitate twists of the arm inside and out. There can be many health conditions impacting elbow joints like injury, inflammation, or diseases. These medical conditions can result in severe pain and may need surgical treatment.
Surgeons use elbow arthroscopy which is a minimally invasive surgery for treatment the elbow. Orthopedic surgeons use elbow arthroscopy because it only involves the use of a small device called arthroscope.
Some of the elbow conditions commonly treated with arthroscopy include tennis elbow, fractures, stiffness, arthritis and tear of ligaments or cartilage.
Elbow Arthroscopy Procedure
Elbow arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure through which the surgeon looks inside the elbow. The surgeon makes small incisions and instruments for treating the elbow. The patient is given anesthesia before starting the operation. The surgeon makes 2 or 3 incisions near the elbow to insert the arthroscope. The camera of the arthroscope magnifies and projects live images of the elbow on a big monitor. The surgeon can treat the condition by getting first-hand information about the elbow’s condition. The surgeon injects a sterile solution into the elbow for expanding the joint, giving them the surgeon extra room to work. Upon completion of the surgery, the surgeon closes the stitches and dresses the wounds.
Once the surgeon completes the surgery, the patient’s elbow is placed in a cast or splint to stabilize its movement. The patient is advised to elevate the elbow to minimize pain and avoid swelling. The patient is asked to regularly apply ice on the operated area to help reduce swelling. The doctor may also advise medicines to reduce pain. The patient must keep the operated area of the elbow dry and clean.
Advantages of Elbow Arthroscopy
The benefits of elbow arthroscopy include the following.
Elbow arthroscopy requires small incisions.
The minimally invasive approach reduces potential damage to nerves and tissues in the surrounding area.
There is minimal trauma to the soft tissues.
Arthroscopy helps reduce the patient’s post-operative pain.
Recovery times also reduce the use of a minimally invasive surgery.
Critical benefits also include a low rate of infection, reduced scarring, and earlier mobilization.
In most cases, the patient is successfully able to restore their normal activities.
Associated Risks of Elbow Arthroscopy
The risks for the elbow arthroscopy include the following.
Damaged to nearby nerves or tissues after surgery.
Increase in stiffness of the elbow and hence reduce mobility functions.
The orthopedic surgeon may advise the patient to perform different exercises which would help strengthen and rebuild the elbow’s strength.
An orthopedic surgeon cannot recommend elbow arthroscopy for individuals with ulnar transposition, and in patients who earlier underwent surgery resulting in changed normal anatomy of the elbow.