The elbow is the joint that connects the upper arm bone and the forearm bones. The elbow joint helps in movement of the arms forward, backward, as well as to twist the arms inside and outside. The elbow joint may get affected by inflammation, injury, or other disease conditions causing severe pain and requiring surgical treatment. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery performed using a tiny device called an arthroscope.
Conditions of the elbow that can be treated by arthroscopy include fractures, tennis elbow, stiffness, arthritis, and tear in the ligaments, and cartilage.
Your surgeon performs a physical examination and obtains your medical history before arthroscopy is performed.
Elbow arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery or keyhole procedure that allows your surgeon to look inside the elbow using small incisions and instruments to evaluate and treat elbow conditions. It is performed under anesthesia. At first, your surgeon makes 2-3 incisions near your elbow one for insertion of an arthroscope, a small device with a camera and lens fixed to the end of a narrow fiber-optic tube and other for insertion of operating instruments. The camera-lens setting magnifies and projects images of the elbow on a large screen monitor. Through the other incisions surgical instruments are inserted to treat the condition. Your surgeon injects a sterile solution into the elbow to expand the joint that allows giving an extra room to work. After the surgery the stitches are closed and dressing is applied.
After the surgery, your surgeon will place a cast or a splint that prevents the movement of the elbow until it is healed completely. You should elevate the elbow to avoid swelling and minimize pain. Ice (wrapped over a cloth) can be applied over the operated area which helps to reduce swelling. Medications are prescribed to reduce pain. Always keep the operated area dry and clean.
Some of the advantages of arthroscopy are it requires smaller incisions, minimal soft tissue trauma, less pain, faster recovery time, low infection rate, less scarring, earlier mobilization, and allows patient to restore to normal activities faster.
Some of the risks observed after elbow arthroscopy include infection, damage to the nearby nerves or tissues during surgery, and stiffness which can be treated through occupational therapy. Exercises are performed to strengthen and rebuild elbow strength.
Elbow arthroscopy may not be performed in individuals with ulnar nerve transposition and in those who had surgery earlier that had changed the normal elbow anatomy.