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The elbow is a complex joint that consists of the upper arm bone (humerus) and one of the lower arm bones (ulna) connected by a hinge, or a joint that only moves in one direction. Although not protected by muscle or fat like most other joints, the elbow is one of the most important joints in the body, as it allows the arms to bend and twist.

Some of the most common elbow injuries include:

  • Biceps tendonitis
  • Dislocation
  • Bursitis
  • Biceps tendon rupture
  • Epicondylitis
  • Fractures

Many of these conditions can be treated through conservative methods, but some may require surgery to effectively relieve pain and restore function to the joint.

Possible Treatments and Procedures

Fracture Repair:

Because of its delicate nature, the elbow bone is vulnerable to fractures that can cause intense pain, swelling and an inability to move the arm. If a fracture is suspected, the doctor will perform a physical examination and X-ray imaging to confirm a fracture diagnosis. While many fractures can be treated through conservative methods such as immobilization and icing, surgery may be required for more severe cases.

Tommy John Surgery:

This is a surgical procedure performed to repair torn ligaments in the elbow after a damaging injury to the area. This procedure, named for Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John, can effectively relieve pain and instability in patients with a torn or damaged ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). A torn UCL commonly affects pitchers, and could even end a baseball player’s career if severe enough.

During Tommy John surgery, the tendon in the forearm is used to recreate the damaged ligament and restore stability to the joint. Most patients achieve successful results from this procedure, although it often requires a lengthy recovery period of 12 to 18 months before athletes can return to activity.

Biceps Tendon Surgery:

The biceps tendon attaches muscles to the shoulder and also helps bend the elbow and rotate the forearm. Surgical treatment for a biceps tendon injury depends on the type and severity of the condition. The procedure may include simply shaving away the torn fibers, removing the torn tendon stump and reattaching the remaining tendon, or completely reattaching torn tendons with screws and sutures.

Elbow Arthroscopy:

Elbow arthroscopy is generally used for simple manipulations of the joint, such as fracture care, debridement and removal of bone fragments. It is also commonly used to confirm and examine abnormalities of the joint to provide a proper diagnosis and ensure that patients will recover in the shortest time possible.

Total Elbow Replacement:

Elbow replacement is performed to repair severe damaged within the elbow joint caused by osteoarthritis, fractures, tumors, tissue tears or other serious conditions. During the elbow replacement procedure, the damaged bone ends are removed from the joint and replaced with a prosthetic device that is held in place with bone cement and connected with a hinge. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia. Patients will need to undergo physical therapy after joint replacement in order to restore strength and stability to the joint before returning to physical activity.