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Alternative Names Return to topTotal elbow arthroplasty; Endoprosthetic elbow replacement
Definition Return to top
Elbow replacement is surgery to replace the bones of the elbow joint with artificial joint parts (prosthetics).
Description Return to top
The elbow joint is made up of 2 bones: 1 from the upper arm (the humerus) and 1 from the lower arm (the ulna). The artificial elbow joint has 2 stems made of high-quality metal. A metal and plastic hinge joins the stems together and allows the artificial joint to bend. Artificial joints come in different sizes to fit different-size people.
You may receive general anesthesia before surgery. This means you will be unconscious and unable to feel pain. You may receive regional anesthesia instead. You will be awake, but your arm will be numb so that you will not feel pain. If you receive regional anesthesia, you will also be given medicine to help you relax during the operation.
Your surgeon will make an incision (cut) to expose your elbow joint. Usually this incision is made in the back of the upper and lower arm.
Why the Procedure is Performed Return to top
Elbow replacement surgery is usually done if the elbow joint is badly damaged and you have pain or cannot use your arm. Some causes of damage are:
Risks Return to top
The risks for any anesthesia are:
The risks for any surgery are:
Additional risks of elbow replacement surgery are:
Before the Procedure Return to top
Always tell your doctor or nurse what drugs you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.
During the 2 weeks before your surgery:
On the day of your surgery:
After the Procedure Return to top
You may stay in the hospital for up to 3 or 4 days.
You may have a splint on your arm to help stabilize your elbow. Your doctor will prescribe physical therapy to help you gain strength and use of your arm. Physical therapy will start with gentle flexing exercises. People who have a splint usually start therapy a few weeks later than those who do not have a splint.
Some people may start to have use of their new elbow as soon as 12 weeks after surgery. But complete recovery can take up to a year.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Elbow replacement surgery eases pain for most people. A second elbow replacement surgery is usually not as successful as the first one.
References Return to top
Gallo RA, Payatakes A, Sotereanos DG. Surgical options for the arthritic elbow. J Hand Surg. 2008 May-Jun;33(5):746-59. PMID: 18590859.
Azar FM, Calandruccio JH. Arthroplasty of the shoulder and elbow. In: Canale ST, Beatty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 8.Update Date: 2/3/2009 Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.