Elbow Replacement

What is elbow replacement?

Elbow replacement surgery describes a procedure where the damaged parts of elbowhinge joint are removed and replaced with new synthetic materials (prosthesis). Also called elbow arthroplasty, this procedure is typically used to treat severe arthritis where the prominent feature is pain.

Elbow replacement is not as common as other joint replacement surgery, but is as successful at relieving symptoms.

Do I need elbow replacement?

The decision to have this treatment should be made after assessment and discussion with your orthopaedic surgeon. The decision will always be yours to make and you need to carefully consider all of the information you have received including what the expected benefits are, what the risks are and what the alternatives are.

How does elbow replacement surgery work?

Elbow replacement may be performed under general anaesthetic or regional anaesthetic or a combination of both.

After your elbow is cleaned and prepared for surgery, your surgeon makes a cut at the back of your elbow and moves soft tissues aside to expose the joint. Cuts are made through the bottom of the humerus and the top of the ulna, and then the joint is removed. Your surgeon will then precisely fit a new artificial joint that has a hinge pin in the middle. The prostheses are fixed in place with bone cement.

The soft tissues are moved back into place and the incisions are closed and a wound dressing placed.

What is involved and what to expect after elbow replacement?

Most people are able to go home within 2–5 days of surgery. You will need to wear a sling, but you’ll be able to start your rehabilitation program straight away. Your therapist will teach you how to manage things like washing yourself as well as some exercises that aim to get you back to doing normal activities as soon as possible.

By 12 weeks after surgery, you should be back to normal day to day activities. But you might find that your symptoms continue to improve for up to 18 months.