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Elbow Replacement

Understanding the Elbow

The elbow is a hinge joint consisting of three bones. The upper part of the hinge is at the end of the upper arm bone (humerus); the lower part of the hinge is at the top of the two forearm bones (radius and ulna). When the elbow is bent, the ends of the two forearm bones rub against the end of the humerus. Inside the elbow joint, the bones are covered with a thick, smooth material called articular cartilage. It protects the bone ends from friction when they rub together. Articular cartilage is soft enough to act as a shock absorber and is tough enough to last a lifetime, if it is not injured.

Elbow Replacement as a Treatment Option

Elbow replacement is a highly effective treatment option for patients with severe elbow arthritis or difficult-to-treat elbow fractures. The goal of elbow replacement is to restore functional mechanics to the joint by removing scar tissue, balancing muscles, and inserting a joint replacement in the place of the destroyed elbow. State-of-the-art arthroscopic technology, originally designed for hip and knee replacement, has recently been applied to techniques for elbow replacement. During arthroscopic elbow replacement, your surgeon will make a very small incision and insert a narrow lighted tube with camera on the end in order to obtain a video image of the area. Since arthroscopic surgery is minimally invasive, the recovery period is usually shorter.

About the Total Elbow Replacement Procedure

At Hoag Orthopedic Institute the entire orthopedic team is highly trained and specialized in leading edge joint replacement surgeries including elbow replacement. Total elbow replacement is a highly technical procedure and is best performed by a surgical team that performs the surgery regularly.

In elbow replacement surgery, an artificial hinge (implant) made of metal and a durable plastic is inserted into the joint so that the elbow can move without allowing the two forearm bones to contact the humerus. Your surgeon will decide upon the type of implant to be used. If necessary, your surgeon may adjust the ligaments that surround your elbow to achieve the best possible function.

What to Expect After Elbow Replacement

Your length of stay as an inpatient will depend upon the type of surgery that is done, varying between one and three days. Your surgery will be performed under general or regional anesthesia and will take between one and two hours. After surgery, your elbow will probably be covered by a bulky bandage and a splint. Assisted elbow movements will be started by a member of Hoag’s physical therapy team the day after surgery. Recovery rates will vary depending upon the type of surgery. Your physical therapist will ask you to follow a personalized regimen of exercises designed get your elbow working in ways that are similar to your work tasks and daily activities. If you work in an office or more sedentary job you should be able to return to work in two to three weeks. Most patients experience pain relief for many years after elbow-replacement surgery.

Hoag Orthopedic Hospital: Orthopedic Surgeons Specializing in Elbow Replacement Surgery

Elbow replacement surgery is a highly technical procedure and is best performed by a surgical team that performs this surgery often. Hoag Orthopedic Institute is a single specialty service center for excellence in orthopedics. Here you will find that the surgical team has the expertise you need, from orthopedic surgeons who specialize in leading edge elbow surgery, to orthopedic certified nurses and orthopedic dedicated surgical techs and physical therapists. Your surgeon will evaluate your situation carefully before making any decisions, and the surgical team will proceed with your safety, pain management, and the ultimate outcome for you in the forefront.


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