Almost everyone has experienced an elbow injury of some kind. You may have sent a tingly sensation shooting up your arm from bumping your “funny bone” or bruised your elbow from a bump or a fall. You may have sprained, fractured or dislocated your elbow playing sports. You may have a chronic overuse injury from performing repetitive work-related tasks. Elbow injuries come in a wide variety of types and degrees, and can be cared for with an equally broad range of treatments.
Arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive surgical method that allows our physicians to see inside the elbow joint through a camera and monitor. The development of arthroscopic techniques has made diagnosis, treatment and recovery from joint injuries easier and faster than was once possible. The healthcare professionals of Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio may recommend elbow arthroscopy as an alternative to traditional open surgery when an elbow injury or condition does not respond to nonsurgical treatment.
The elbow joint is formed by the union of three bones: the radius, the ulna and the humerus. The surfaces of these bones where they come into contact are covered with cartilage. A thin tissue called synovial membrane covers other surfaces within the joint. Ligaments, tendons and muscles support the joint and allow it to move. These structures are susceptible to injury, overuse, disease and age-related wear and tear.
Arthroscopy is a safer, faster and less painful alternative to many traditional methods of elbow surgery. During an arthroscopic procedure, a physician inserts a tiny camera called an arthroscope into the elbow through a small incision. The image from the camera is transmitted to a monitor where the surgeon can observe the interior of the joint, make a diagnosis and, if possible, make repairs using specialized surgical instruments that are inserted through additional small incisions.
Your physician may recommend elbow arthroscopy if previous attempts to treat the condition with conservative measures have failed. Some of the common arthroscopic procedures performed on the elbow include:
Although there are many conditions for which this technique can be useful in diagnosis as well as treatment, some conditions cannot be treated with arthroscopy. Surgeries to replace the elbow joint, fix some fractures, repair the collateral ligaments or treat golfer’s elbow are more effective when performed using an open technique. Patients with certain health risks may not be eligible for elbow arthroscopy. The ideal candidates for this procedure have one or more of the concerns listed above, are in good health generally and have reasonable expectations of what can be achieved with arthroscopic surgery. Your orthopaedic surgeon will evaluate your candidacy for this treatment during a consultation.
During your procedure, you will be given anesthesia and positioned to provide a clear view of the inside of your elbow through the arthroscope. Your surgeon will first fill the joint with fluid that improves visibility of its internal structures, then make a small incision to introduce the arthroscope. If damage will be repaired during the procedure, your surgeon will make additional incisions and insert surgical instruments. Images from the camera are transmitted to a video screen that your surgeon will use to observe the area and guide the instruments. When the arthroscopic surgery is complete, the instruments will be removed and the incisions will be closed and dressed.
After surgery, you will rest in the recovery room and then be discharged home. You will be given instructions that cover incision care, medications, need for ice and elevation, and activities to avoid. You can expect to feel some pain and discomfort in your elbow, but it is usually less than what is experienced after open surgery. Your physician may recommend exercises to stimulate circulation, minimize swelling and prevent joint stiffness. Rehabilitation may also play a critical role in restoring your strength and range of motion. When you can return to daily activities will depend on the severity of your elbow condition and type of surgery performed.
You will return for follow-up visits during which your physician will monitor your healing and remove sutures if necessary. It is essential to attend these appointments as recommended to ensure a safe and smooth recovery.
When your elbow is impaired by an injury or a condition, it can affect your ability to do even the most routine daily tasks. At Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio, we provide a comprehensive range of surgical and nonsurgical treatments to relieve your pain and restore your mobility. For more information about elbow arthroscopy or another treatment we offer, please contact Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio today at 419-222-6622.