Your elbow joint connects the three bones in your arm: the humerus, ulna, and radius. Along with these bones is cartilage, synovial tissue, and synovial fluid. If any of these parts are damaged through injury or a degenerative condition, pain and joint inflammation can result.
Chronic elbow pain can make it difficult to do everything from washing dishes to playing catch. When elbow pain stops you from enjoying life, and medications or conservative treatments don’t help, you may need to have elbow replacement surgery.
Kristopher Downing, MD, and Daniel Brereton, DO, at Upper Extremity Specialists of Synergy Orthopedic Specialists Medical Group are experts in diagnosing and treating elbow conditions of all kinds. Elbow replacement surgery is growing in popularity, and there are many reasons why.
Reasons to consider elbow replacement surgery
Dr. Downing and Dr. Brereton are highly trained in identifying the causes of elbow pain. For soft tissue injuries and mild arthritis, our team often recommends conservative treatments. Immobilization, rest, and anti-inflammatory injections can often relieve pain and help your body heal.
But, in certain cases, conservative treatments may not be enough to relieve your elbow pain and restore your mobility. Arthritis and severe fractures are two elbow conditions that we may recommend elbow replacement surgery to treat.
Elbow replacement surgery for arthritis
The two main types of arthritis that can cause elbow problems are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. With rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial membrane in your elbow gets thick and inflamed. Over time, this can cause joint pain, stiffness, and a loss of cartilage.
Osteoarthritis, also called wear-and-tear arthritis, can develop as cartilage wears away over the years. When cartilage disappears, bones can rub against each other and cause pain and stiffness.
Joint damage that comes with arthritis is irreversible, and it can significantly reduce your mobility. Elbow replacement surgery, therefore, can be an effective option for people with severe arthritis.
Elbow replacement surgery for fractures
A bone fracture occurs when a bone completely breaks in one or more places. Anyone can suffer an elbow fracture due to an injury, but it’s more common in older people and those who have osteoporosis.
Severe elbow fractures can be difficult to treat. It may be impossible to put small pieces of bone back into place, and the blood supply to the bones can be affected. A fracture can also cause joint instability.
Elbow replacement surgery for fractures can be a good option if it’s too difficult to put the bones back into proper alignment. Rather than risk improper healing and chronic pain, elbow replacement surgery can restore joint strength and preserve your mobility.
What to expect with elbow replacement surgery
With elbow replacement surgery, we make a small incision in the back of your elbow to access the joint. We then remove the damaged tissue and replace it with an artificial joint.
Most patients spend 2-4 days in the hospital following elbow replacement surgery. With our guidance, you can begin reintroducing activity in the days after your surgery. Our team will give you a customized recovery plan that may include pain medication and physical therapy.
Healing from elbow surgery may take several months. After completing your rehabilitation program, you can expect to have significantly less joint pain and stiffness, and you should find it easier to participate in all your favorite activities.
You don’t have to live with chronic elbow pain and restricted range of motion. To learn more about elbow replacement surgery, book an appointment online or over the phone with Upper Extremity Specialists today.