Elbow replacement surgery (sometimes known as complete or total elbow arthroplasty) is a procedure in which doctors replace a damaged elbow’s joint and make an attempt to restore mobility and flexibility. A surgeon replaces your elbow joint with an artificial joint during this procedure.
Elbow replacement surgery does not necessarily mean the entire elbow. Surgeons may replace only a portion of the joint, such as the radial head, in some patients. However, many people find that having their elbow replaced enhances their quality of life. It helped them feel better and allowed them to back to doing the things they were not able to do earlier.
Anatomy of elbow
The elbow comprises three bones the humerus, ulna, and radius. The ends of these bones are covered with cartilage, a rubbery substance that allows joints to make movement. Ligaments that compose these joint capsules hold the bones together. A fluid-filled sac that covers and lubricates the joint is known as the joint capsule.
Why is it done?
Elbow replacement surgery helps to reduce the pain and increase the range of motion, flexibility and posture.
The following are some of the conditions that may necessitate elbow replacement surgery:
- An elbow bone that has been shattered or cracked
- In case of osteoarthritis, a condition in which the cartilage in the joints has deteriorated or the bones become very weak to function
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that causes joint inflammation (swelling)
Types of elbow replacement surgery
Mostly there are two types of elbow replacements:
Linked total elbow arthroplasty (TEA) is a type of surgery in which the prosthetics act similar to a loose hinge because all other parts of the replacement joint are still connected. This helps improve the joint’s stability and makes the elbow more flexible when trying to move without severe pain.
Unlinked total elbow arthroplasty (TEA)
This device comprises two components that are not connected to each other because its design relies on the surrounding ligaments to keep the joint together and is more prone to dislocation.
Preparing for the procedure
The healthcare provider will perform certain tests to diagnose the cause of injury and further make recommendations based on the same. Before visiting the doctor, refrain from consuming any medicine or informing your doctor prior to visiting. These medications can cause side effects such as bleeding, making it difficult for the doctor to treat. Before the surgery, make relevant and necessary changes in your home to adjust post-surgery.
During the Procedure
- The surgeon will carefully remove the damaged tissue replace it with an artificial one
- There are two types of replacements that can be used for elbow replacement surgery linked and unlinked
- The type of replacement to be used will depend on the cause and severity of the damage
After the Procedure
Post-surgery, as you start to recover, your elbow may still feel stiff and sore for several weeks. Doctors might suggest keeping your arm elevated for a few days until you start to adjust and the swelling starts to lower with time. It is advisable to stick to the prescription given by your doctor to help relieve and manage the pain.
Your doctor may recommend a physiotherapist or explain certain at-home gentle exercises to help the elbow heal and improve its ability to function. In more severe cases, doctors might suggest the patient wait for 5-6 weeks after the surgery to resume day-to-day activities like before.
Elbow replacement complications/Risk
Any surgery can lead to certain complications either during or may develop over time. The risks of elbow replacement surgery are as below:
- Internal bleeding
- Infection after artificial implantation
- Loosening or wearing down of implants
- Side effects of anaesthesia