Elbow Arthroscopy

Elbow arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive diagnostic or surgical procedure used to examine and treat conditions that affect the elbow joint.

The procedure generally involves creating a few small incisions (of approximately one centimeter in width) to access the elbow joint, though each elbow arthroscopy varies based on the individual patient. An arthroscope, or small tube with a camera and light for viewing, is inserted into one of the incisions, and small instruments to perform the diagnostic examination or operation are inserted through the other incisions.

Benefits of Elbow Arthroscopy

As the indications for such surgery have increased, elbow arthroscopic procedures have become more common. Arthroscopic surgery is much less invasive than traditional open surgical procedures, as arthroscopy requires smaller incisions and results in less soft tissue disruption and trauma. Arthroscopic surgical procedures of the elbow generally leave the patient with:

  • Faster healing
  • Little scarring
  • Lower infection rates
  • Significantly reduced pain levels
  • Earlier return to sports and activities of daily living

When is Elbow Arthroscopic Surgery Used?

While elbow arthroscopic surgery can be successful in treating a wide range of elbow conditions, the procedure may not be a suitable treatment for all conditions that affect the elbow. In some cases, traditional open elbow surgery is the best course to treat conditions of the elbow. Elbow arthroscopy is typically useful in treating:

  • Inflammation in the elbow joint
  • Cartilage damage, such as tears, injury or wear
  • Repetitive strain injuries
  • Tendon damage
  • Loose bone or cartilage
  • Undiagnosed elbow pain

Recovery from Elbow Arthroscopy Surgery

Elbow arthroscopic surgery is done on an outpatient basis, so patients are able to go home several hours after the procedure. Following arthroscopic surgery, the wounds created by the incisions during the procedure are generally healed within a few days. Depending on the extent of the surgery, recovery time may vary between patients, however most patients typically return to normal daily activity within a few days and are back to more strenuous activities and sports within a few weeks following surgery.

Possible Elbow Arthroscopy Surgery Complications

While complications from elbow arthroscopy are rare, there are still risks to be aware of. The largest risk is possible injury to other tissues and structures near the elbow joint. Nerves near the elbow joint could be damaged during the procedure. As with any surgery, elbow arthroscopic surgery can lead to infection. Elbow arthroscopy may also not completely relieve pain or discomfort of the elbow.