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Elbow replacement surgery

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Elbow replacement is a complicated surgery, yet with high success rate, designed to replace the existing joint with a new artificial elbow. Elbow replacement surgery is also known as elbow arthroplasty.


Who needs elbow replacement surgery?

Elbow replacement is done on people who have lost mobility for their elbow joint or their elbow joint has been damaged under the following conditions like: 

  • Traumatic damage of elbow joint or arm that needs replacement of elbow
  • Disease in joints, osteoarthritis, rheumatic arthritis, post operative arthritis
  • Tumor in the joint and for surgery of tumor


How is the surgery performed?

The prosthetic elbow is customized as per the size of the individual’s joint. The artificial elbow joint or implant is made up of high grade metal; is attached inside the humerus and ulna (the connecting structures of elbow joint) with the help of two hinges.


Preparing for the surgery

Your doctor will schedule preoperative counseling as well as diagnosis session before performing the surgery.

All concerns regarding the surgery will be addressed. You need to present the reports of your medical condition, history of any infections and medicines that you are possibly taking.

You might need to undergo diagnostic tests depending upon your medical condition.

Certain medicines like those that interfere with blood clotting might be stopped or the dosing might be altered.

You will be admitted to the hospital the day before surgery and make sure you make arrangements for a week stay in the hospital.


What happens during the surgery?

Elbow replacement surgery is performed under general anesthesia; so you won’t be experiencing pain or any other discomfort during the operation.

An incision will be made at the back of your arm or elbow in order to expose the elbow joint. Your surgeon will be performing the operation that entails removing the damaged tissues or bones, etc. Once this is over, the prosthetic stems will be fixed with the humerus and ulna and secured with the help of bone cement and hinges.

Once the surgery is over, the incision would be stitched and bandaged. Your doctor would give you a splint that would stabilize your arm.

The surgery takes about 2 hours for completion


What happens after the surgery?

You will be retained in the hospital for 2-4 days (maximum a week). Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to avoid infection and pain killers would also be given to manage post operative pain.

You will be given several instructions regarding post operative care that you must follow properly. Apart from this, your doctor would also schedule physiotherapy sessions after a certain period to enhance recovery and restore optimum function of your elbow.

Remember not to lift heavy objects or carry out any activity that would exert pressure or force in your elbow for at least 6 weeks.


Risks associated with elbow replacement surgery

Post operative infection, allergy to the prosthetic and injury to the surrounding nerves are the most common risks associated with this surgery. Some problems with the implant like wear and tear, loosening or breaking of the components might crop up down the line which might demand another surgery.


How effective is elbow replacement surgery?

Doctors believe that elbow replacement surgery is a huge success and is most effective in older adults and old people. The surgery is done only under special cases where the advantage of an implant cannot be compensated by normal surgery. Your doctor would be taking special care to eliminate the risks and to ensure that you regain the much needed mobility in your elbow joint.

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Elbow replacement surgery

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: August 25, 2014