Elbow Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy is a valuable test for evaluating the elbow joint. The elbow is the large joint between your upper arm (humerus) and your forearm (radius and ulna). Arthroscopy is a surgical technique which uses small cuts (incisions) to insert a small telescope-like instrument (arthroscope) and other tools into the joint. This allows the surgeon to look directly at the problem. The arthroscope then beams light into the joint and sends an image to a monitor much the same way a video camera does. As your surgeon examines your elbow, he or she can also repair a number of problems found at the same time. Sometimes the surgery may have to be changed to an open surgery if the problem cannot be corrected with just arthroscopy.

Arthroscopy is most often performed as a same-day surgery. This means you will not have to stay in the hospital overnight. Recovery from this surgery is also faster than from an open procedure.

LET YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER KNOW ABOUT:

  • Any allergies you have.

  • All medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbs, eye drops, creams, and over-the-counter medicines.

  • Previous problems you or members of your family have had with the use of anesthetics.

  • Any blood disorders you have.

  • Previous surgeries you have had.

  • Medical conditions you have.

RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS

Generally, elbow arthroscopy is a safe procedure. However, as with any procedure, complications can occur. Possible complications include:

  • Damage to nerves or blood vessels.  

  • Excess bleeding.  

  • Blood clots.  

  • The possibility of infection.

BEFORE THE PROCEDURE

  • Stop taking anti-inflammatory medicines at least 1 week prior to surgery unless instructed otherwise.

  • Do not eat or drink after midnight the day before your procedure, or as instructed.

  • Take medicines as your health care provider instructs.

  • You may have lab tests the morning of surgery.

  • Make arrangements for someone to drive you home after your surgery.

PROCEDURE

You may be given a medicine to make you sleep (general anesthetic) during the procedure. You may be given a medicine to numb just the part being worked on (local anesthetic). Your surgeon, anesthesiologist or anesthetist will discuss this with you. Some of the most commonly encountered problems in the elbow joint area are loose bodies in which bone or cartilage pieces within the joint have broken loose. There may be bone spurs in which small, bony overgrowths cause pain and limitation of movement. Sometimes a piece of bone may become loose because of injury to its blood supply. This is called osteochondritis dissecans. There may be ligament tears or damage to the cartilage. Ligamentous tears may have to be repaired with an open procedure. Cartilage tears may be shaved off or loose pieces of cartilage may be removed.

AFTER THE PROCEDURE

After surgery, you will be taken to the recovery area where a nurse will watch and check your progress. Once you are awake and able to take liquids, you will be allowed to go home.