Although not as common as hip, knee, or shoulder replacement surgery, the annual volume of elbow arthroplasty procedures is increasing worldwide and outcomes for the procedure are very favorable. Brigham and Women’s Hospital features a staff of orthopedic surgeons who specialize in this procedure and have helped many patients with severe elbow damage improve their quality of life.
What Is Arthroplasty?
Arthroplasty is a surgical procedure to replace or restore a damaged joint to ease pain and improve mobility, thereby improving the patient’s quality of life. In an elbow arthroplasty, high-quality metal is used to replace the lower end of the upper arm bone (humerus) and the upper end of one of the lower arm bones, the ulna, and then these two replacement stems are connected with a metal and plastic hinge.
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Who Should Get an Elbow Replacement?
Elbow replacement surgery is considered for patients who have severe joint pain and/or limited use of their arm. There are a variety of ways that the elbow joint can become damaged to the point where it should be replaced, including:
- Arthritis – osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
- Damaged or torn tissues in the elbow
- Badly broken bone near the elbow
- Tumor in or around the elbow
Doctors will typically start treatment by using one or more alternative medical interventions, including arthroscopy, to try to alleviate your elbow pain without replacing the joint. If these prove to be unsuccessful, your doctor will then consider factors such as your age and quality of life goals to determine whether you would benefit from an elbow replacement. The prosthesis can help to improve range of motion, stop or reduce joint pain and improve your quality of life. Most people should be able to return to comfortably performing most daily activities following their recovery.
Recovering from Elbow Replacement Surgery
An arthroplasty generally takes about 2-3 hours, followed by a stay of 3-4 days in the hospital. Recovery largely depends on your general health before the surgery and the type of joint that is being replaced. Most elbow replacement recipients experience pain relief and/or improved movement relatively soon, but then need several months to recover their normal strength and energy. Your physician will give you instructions throughout your recovery, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do to improve the quality and speed of your recovery.
Visit the Joint Replacement Surgery page to get more information on the benefits and risks of elbow replacement procedures and what to expect before, during and after the surgery. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists, please call us at 1-800-BWH-9999.
This page was last modified on 10/19/2011