Orthopaedic surgeons use arthroscopy to visualize and treat problems inside a joint. For this procedure, a small camera called an arthroscope is inserted into the elbow joint and the image is then displayed on a video screen. These images are used to guide the movement of very small surgical instruments. As the arthroscope and surgical instruments are so small only very tiny incisions are needed for open surgery. This results in less pain for patients, less joint stiffness, and quicker recovery.

Elbow Arthroscopy History

Elbow arthroscopy has been performed since the 1980s and improvements to elbow arthroscopy over the years happens as new instruments and techniques are developed. There are several elbow surgical treatments that are currently most effective when done as an open, traditional procedure. These include surgeries to:

  •     Treat golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)
  •     Repair the collateral ligaments
  •     Repair certain types of fractures
  •     Perform elbow joint replacement (arthroplasty)
  •     Decompress the ulnar nerve (funny bone nerve)

Conditions treated with Elbow Arthroscopy

Elbow arthroscopy may be recommended for a painful condition that does not respond to nonsurgical treatments aimed at reducing inflammation such as rest, physical therapy, and medications or injections. Inflammation is a normal reaction to injury or disease typically resulting in swelling, pain, and stiffness.

In most cases injury, overuse, and age-related wear and tear are responsible for more severe elbow problems. Elbow arthroscopy can help painful symptoms stemming from damaged cartilage surfaces and soft tissue damage of the joint. It may also be recommended to remove loose pieces of bone and cartilage, or release scar tissue that may be blocking motion.

Common arthroscopic procedures include:

  •     Treatment of tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  •     Removal of loose cartilage and bone fragments
  •     Release of scar tissue to improve range of motion
  •     Treatment of osteoarthritis caused by wear and tear
  •     Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis
  •     Treatment of osteochondritis dissecans
  •     Treatment of fractures

Some advanced surgeries combine arthroscopic and open procedures in the same setting. For example, in a severe case of osteochondritis dissecans, a loose piece of bone may be removed arthroscopically, and the damaged area of the humerus may be treated with a bone graft using an open surgical technique.

Results and Outcomes

Recovery time varies depending on the type of surgery and the extent of the damage or injury. For a minor repair, a splint may not be required, and range of motion and function may return after just a short period of rehabilitation. Naturally, recovery will take longer for more complicated procedures. Although the incisions are small in arthroscopy, extensive damage within the joint that has been repaired with the procedure may take longer to heal. Full recovery may take several months in those cases.

SRO Shoulder and Elbow Care Center

As one of the top programs in the North Bay for shoulder care Santa Rosa Orthopaedic’s Shoulder and Elbow programs provides highly specialized care to those experiencing arm pain. Our patients benefit from the expertise and skill of specialists who perform countless procedures each year while continually pioneering advances in repair and replacement. Learn more …

*Information for this article provided by AAOS OrthoInfo