About the elbow

The elbow is a hinge type joint between the Humerus bone of the upper arm and the two bones of the forearm, the Radius and the Ulna.

Surgery for the elbow varies from treatment to address local problems such as Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) or entrapment of the ulnar nerve as it passes behind the elbow to total joint replacement for failure of the joint due to arthritis.

Arthritis of the elbow can be due to osteoarthritis, old injuries or rheumatioid arthritis. The first sign of arthritis may be loss of range of motion particularly extension or the ability to straighten the elbow. Gradually the joint may become painful to use. Early arthitis may treated by physiotherapy and/or injection. As the arthritis progesses arthroscopy or key hole surgery can be used or possibly removal of part of the joint known as the radial head.

Elbow replacement consists of removing the joint surfaces and replacing them with a metal and plastic hinge prosthesis. There are different types depending on the circumstances. Rheumatoid arthritis, which is a generalised disease, is the commonest cause of arthritis requiring elbow replacement. Undergoing elbow replacement requires admission to hospital, an anaesthetic and an operation usually down the back of the arm. Following a short period of time in a plaster cast support there is an intensive physiotherapy/rehabilitation programme. Return to full range of motion is rarely achieved but pain which the primary reason for operating is relieved.