Elbow Joint Replacement, also referred to as total elbow arthroplasty is an operative procedure to treat the symptoms of arthritis that have not responded to non-surgical treatments.
The arm in the human body is made up of three bones that join to form a hinge joint called the elbow. The upper arm bone or humerus connects from the shoulder to the elbow forming the top of the hinge joint. The lower arm or forearm consists of two bones, the radius and the ulna. These bones connect the wrist to the elbow forming the bottom portion of the hinge joint.
Arthritis is a general term that covers numerous conditions in which the joint surfaces wear out. The joint surface is covered by a smooth articular surface made of cartilage that allows pain free movement in the joint. This surface can wear out for several reasons. Often the definite cause is unknown.
When the articular cartilage wears out, the bone ends rub on one another causing pain. In general, but not always, arthritis affects people as they get older.
Elbow joint replacement surgery may be recommended by your surgeon for the treatment of severe arthritis that has not responded to conservative treatment options such as medications or steroid injections.
Other indications for elbow joint replacement surgery may include:
- Severe elbow fracture in older patients with osteoporosis; a disease that causes bone loss and raises the risk of fractures
- Tumor or growth in the elbow joint
- History of previous elbow surgery
Elbow conditions should be evaluated by an orthopaedic surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your surgeon will perform the following:
- Medical History
- Physical Examination
- Tests will also be ordered and may include X-ray's and MRI scan.
Elbow joint replacement surgery is an option that your surgeon may recommend if your overall health is good and you have not had success with conservative treatments options.
The goal of elbow joint replacement surgery is to eliminate your pain and increase the mobility of your elbow joint. The surgery is performed under sterile conditions in an operating room under general or regional anesthesia and involves the following steps:
- An incision is made over the back of the elbow.
- The muscles are retracted and tendons and ligaments are moved away to expose the elbow joint. Care is taken to move the ulnar nerve to prevent nerve damage.
- The damaged joint surfaces of the humerus, radius and ulna are cut off with a surgical saw to create a smooth surface to attach the implants.