HomeHealth A-ZAll About Elbow Replacement Surgery

All About Elbow Replacement Surgery

Elbow replacement is a surgical procedure performed to replace the damaged parts of elbow joints  with artificial components. Artificial elbow joints are made of metal as well as plastic hinges. 

The surgery is recommended when a patient has a disease like rheumatoid arthritis or an injury that has harmed an elbow. 

Elbow replacement surgery is also known as elbow arthroplasty or elbow joint replacement. Pain is the most common reason any person chooses to have elbow replacement surgery.

What you need to know about elbow replacement surgery?

Elbow replacement surgery is performed by orthopedic surgeons specially trained to treat problems of bones and joints. Hand surgeons are further specialized in surgery of wrist, hand, forearm and elbow. The surgery is done at a hospital and includes an incision of six inches in the back of the elbow to replace or remove the joint that is damaged. The surgeon will prepare the remaining bones to hold the new joint. After that, the artificial elbow joint, made of metal and plastic, is permanently fixed.

The surgery offers many benefits to patients as it improves their quality of life. Many people can carry on with their normal activities perfectly. Your surgeon will help you improve your movements after the surgery.

Who qualifies for the surgery? Why is it performed?

Age is not a problem for joint replacement. However, a patient should have good health.

Elbow replacement surgery is performed on people with damaged elbow joints due to issues ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to traumatic fractures. But, in many instances, in which the bone damage is severe, a doctor might recommend elbow replacement surgery. 

If you have the following conditions, elbow replacement surgery is prescribed

This is a disease which makes joints inflamed. This inflammation damages cartilage and leads to cartilage loss, stiffness and pain.

It is age-related wear and tear of the joints and occurs in people who are above 50 years of age, but it may occur in younger people too. In this condition, the bones rub against each other over time and make the elbow joint stiff and painful.

  • Post-traumatic arthritis

This can follow  an elbow injury. 

  • Instability

This condition occurs when the ligaments that hold the elbow joint together are damaged. 

Elbow joint is prone to dislocation and is the most common cause of the surgery.

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What are the types of elbow replacement surgery?

There are mainly two types of elbow replacement surgery

  1. Total elbow replacement surgery

In this type of surgery, the damaged parts of the elbow are replaced by artificial components. The artificial elbow joint is of metal and plastic hinge with two metal stems. The stem is fitted inside the hollow part of the bone, termed a canal.

There are 2 types of prosthesis used

  1. Linked. This type of prosthesis acts rather like a loose hinge as all parts of the replacement joint are connected. This gives good joint stability, but the stresses of movement can sometimes leads to the prosthesis working itself loose from where it is inserted into the arm bones.
  2. Unlinked. This type of prosthesis is available in two separate pieces that are not connected to each other. The design of this device depends on the surrounding ligaments to help hold your joint together, which may make it more prone to dislocation
  1. Partial elbow replacement surgery

This type of surgery is used in very specific situations.

What are the benefits of the surgery?

The main advantages or benefits of elbow replacement surgery are:

  • It reduces joint pain.
  • It improves the range of joint movements in some cases.
  • It improves the quality of life.

What are at risks of elbow replacement surgery?

  • Injury to nerves and blood vessels
  • Broken bones
  • Allergic reaction to artificial joints
  • Infection
  • Stiffness of the joint
  • Weakness or failure in tendons of the arm
  • Loosening of artificial parts
  • Pain

Potential complications may involve:

  • Fracture of new joints
  • Weakness of triceps tendon
  • Blood vessel, bone or muscle damage

After surgery, bleeding and blood clots can also develop.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What happens after elbow replacement surgery?

Elbow replacement patients will be in a recovery room until their vital signs are stable. 

  • After surgery, you have to stay for two to four days in hospital.
  • After surgery, you may be asked to wear a soft elbow splint or sling for a few weeks.
  • You should have physical therapy too after the elbow replacement surgery to regain elbow strength and movement.

How do we prepare for the surgery?

The surgeon will do a physical examination to identify the other health problems you might have, like blood pressure or diabetes, and those should be treated before surgery. The doctor might suggest you avoid smoking or lose weight as it can raise the surgical risks and slow the healing time. The surgeon will also suggest that you avoid anti-inflammatory medications weeks before your scheduled date for surgery.. Also, your anesthesiologist may prescribe a medication to take in the evening before surgery and tell you when to stop eating or drinking .

How long does the replacement last? 

The period for the replacement to last varies from person to person. However, it lasts for ten years or more. After this time, there are chances that it may loosen or wear out. Revision surgery can be an option.

Are regular visits to surgeons required after surgery?

Yes, it is required as your surgeon will schedule your follow-up to evaluate your progress. It takes six to nine months for complete recovery as complications can occur with implants.

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