Like other major joints, the elbow can also be affected by osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis, as well as by past injury. These conditions can cause pain and stiffness that may be alleviated by surgery. Elbow replacement may not be appropriate for those who have a history of elbow infection.
In elbow replacement surgery, a loosely hinged prosthesis is used to replace the arthritic ends of the humerus (upper arm bone) and ulna (one of the lower arm bones) at the joint where they meet. Surgery is done through an incision at the back of the elbow, where there are fewer blood vessels and nerves. The arthritic surfaces are removed and the replacement hinge, composed of plastic and metal, is connected to the two bones.
Postoperative care begins with up to three weeks of immobilization in a splint. Physical therapy, which is key to returning the elbow to good functionality, begins after this period. For more information about surgery and recovery, please visit the Patient Care Process page.
About 90 percent of patients report relief from the surgery when measured after eight years.
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