Orthopaedic Surgeon

Elbow Arthroscopy

What is Elbow Arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure (operation) where optical instruments are used to look inside a joint. This can be done through very small skin cuts and then allows treatment of problems within the joint to be performed through other very small skin incisions.

Arthroscopy has dramatically altered the approach to the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of joint ailments. 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.

In recent years, the role of elbow arthroscopy has expanded dramatically and is becoming a much more common procedure. Elbow arthroscopy has the 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.

There are few contraindications to elbow arthroscopy. There are many situations, however, that might make the procedure more difficult or may preclude the use of certain portals for access to the joint. This includes situations such as ulnar nerve transposition or prior surgery that alters normal elbow anatomy.

Since the elbow is a complex joint it has 3 different areas that need to be visualised during the surgery. This means that there will at least 5 portals (cuts to allow insertion of a viewing telescope or treating instrument) used to complete the elbow arthroscopy. Often more are required.

The surgery is performed under a general anaesthetic. Once you are asleep, you are placed on your side and the arm to be operated on will be placed over a well padded arm holder. Multiple skin stabs will then be made to allow access of both the viewing camera and the operating instruments into your elbow joint. The 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 (Osteochondritis Dissecans)
  • 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
  • Removal of osteophytes
  • Treatment of fractures

Poste Operative Care

Post operative care varies widely depending on the nature of the operation. Some patients are placed in a plaster with the arm straight, some have the elbow bent with a plaster and some have a nerve block which allows immediate range of motion on a CPM (continuous passive motion) machine to remove swelling and stretch out muscles that have been in a shortened position for a long time.

OTHER Elbow Conditions