Elbow Arthroscopy

Learn more about our capabilities for this procedure.

Quick Facts on Elbow Arthroscopy

  • This minimally invasive procedure allows a surgeon to look inside a joint using small incisions (portals) and instruments the width of a pencil.
  • Elbow arthroscopy can be helpful in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis, loose bodies in joints, tennis elbow, stiffness, and fractures.
  • The procedure disrupts less soft tissue than conventional open surgery for faster recovery.
  • Often elbow arthroscopy is done as an ambulatory procedure, allowing the patient to go home the same day, but occasionally a hospital stay may be needed.

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Cumberland
Gaithersburg
La Plata
Laurel
National Harbor / Oxon Hill
Silver Spring
Waldorf

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When is elbow arthroscopy performed?

Most people are aware of knee and shoulder arthroscopy, but the elbow joint has many conditions that can be treated with arthroscopy as well. The role of elbow arthroscopy in the treatment of elbow disorders has been dramatically increasing over the past few years. There are a variety of conditions for which elbow arthroscopy can be useful in diagnosis as well as treatment, including arthritis, loose bodies in the joint, tennis elbow, stiffness, and fractures. Fractures and other injuries to the elbow can lead to significant stiffness of the joint.

Stiff, contracted elbows are being released more frequently by elbow arthroscopy. Although not curable by arthroscopy, patients with arthritis of the elbow can enjoy significant improvement in symptoms and function after arthroscopy. After a physical examination, X-rays, or other studies such as CT or MRI scanning, your surgeon may recommend an arthroscopic procedure for the treatment of your elbow disorder. Because the incisions used with elbow arthroscopy are smaller and disrupt less soft tissue than conventional open surgery, pain, swelling, and stiffness are minimized and recovery is often faster.

physician with elbow patient

How is elbow arthroscopy performed?

The procedure is performed under general or regional anesthesia. A fiberoptic camera is inserted through a small incision, or ‘portal,’ in the elbow. The camera lens magnifies and projects the small structures in the elbow onto a television monitor, allowing the surgeon to accurately diagnose the condition. Several other small portals are used to allow the surgeon to place the camera in different positions to see different structures inside the joint and to place various small instruments into the joint to help treat various problems in the elbow. Sometimes elbow arthroscopy is combined with open procedures.

What can I expect after elbow arthroscopy?

After your arthroscopy, you may be placed into an elbow splint that allows full mobility of your hand. The period of immobilization will vary depending on what was performed at the time of surgery. Elevating the involved extremity is important to prevent excessive swelling and pain after your surgery. Certain conditions require that you begin therapy right away, and others may not require it at all. Often elbow arthroscopy is done as an ambulatory procedure, allowing the patient to go home the same day, but occasionally, depending on the condition, a hospital stay may be needed.

Risks and limitations:

As with any surgery, elbow arthroscopy has risks. These include infection and potential damage to nerves and arteries. Stiffness may need to be addressed through post-operative rehabilitation. Elbow arthroscopy is not appropriate for all elbow conditions and is dependent on the surgeon’s training, expertise, and comfort level.

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