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Elbow Arthroscopy

Elbow arthroscopy is a surgical procedure where optical instruments are used to visualise the inside of the elbow joint.  This can be done through very small skin incisions and allows treatment of problems within the elbow joint to be performed through other very small skin incisions. Arthroscopy has dramatically altered the approach to the diagnosis and treatment of elbow joint ailments. 

Elbow arthroscopy can be used to aid in diagnosis, to determine prognosis and most importantly, to provide treatment. Arthroscopy of most of the larger joints is an extremely safe procedure and has very few complications. Elbow arthroscopy has some potential to be hazardous to important nearby nerves and vessels, more so than with most other joints. Placing the viewing telescope and instrument in the correct place and being very careful with surgical technique, significantly diminishes the risk to the structures. At Orthosports we are highly trained to perform this complex procedure safely.

The surgery will be performed under a general anaesthetic. The elbow joint will be thoroughly inspected and then any pathology will be treated at the time. Elbow arthroscopy is particularly helpful for:

  • Removal of loose bodies.
  • Evaluation and treatment of OCD.
  • Evaluation and treatment of damaged joint lining surfaces.
  • Removal of bone spurs. Synovectomy – especially for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Stiff elbow release.
  • Tennis elbow release.
  • Evaluation of instability.

Elbow arthroscopy appears to be highly useful for the treatment of arthritis and contractures (loss of motion) . The indications for contracture release in patients with rheumatoid arthritis are the same as those in the general population (i.e. loss of motion impeding functional activities of daily living). Exceptions to this include patients with severe synovitis and thinning of the capsule, or revision cases in which the capsule has already been excised.

Anterior or posterior capsulectomy should be performed only by surgeons who are experienced in the performance of such procedures using open techniques, and also have substantial expertise in arthroscopy. A thorough understanding of the three-dimensional anatomy of the elbow and surrounding nerves, effects of joint distention, correct portal placement, recognition of “at risk” procedures and strong arthroscopic skills are necessary to prevent serious complications, particularly as more complicated procedures are performed.

Post operative rehabilitation is very important after elbow arthroscopy. Typically an injection or regional block is used to make the arm go numb. The arm is placed on a machine which maintains the elbow range of motion following the arthroscopic surgery. The ‘Continuous Passive Motion’ is designed to stretch out the muscles which have not been through a full range of motion for many months or years.

Elbow arthroscopy is very useful to remove loose bodies, evaluate and treat OCD, evaluate and treat damaged joint lining surfaces (arthritis) , remove bone spurs, perform a Synovectomy, perform a stiff elbow release, perform a tennis elbow release and evaluate and treat elbow instability. 

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