Elbow arthroscopy surgery
Elbow arthroscopy surgery, also referred to as "scoping the elbow," is a minimally invasive procedure used by orthopaedic surgeons to repair various painful diseases and disorders of the elbow such as arthritis, tennis elbow and thrower’s elbow. An arthroscope is a small tube consisting of a system of lenses, a light and a small video camera that is inserted into a small incision. Surgical tools are inserted through other small incisions to repair and/or remove damaged structures and harmful debris such as bone or cartilage chips.
Several painful elbow conditions can be effectively treated with elbow arthroscopy surgery:
- Tennis elbow – Tennis elbow is a painful condition that occurs when there is microscopic tearing of the tendons on the outside of the elbow joint. As the name suggests, tennis elbow has long been associated with racquet sports and other physical activities that overuse the arms. In our computer age, tennis elbow is now happening more frequently to people who have never played racquet sports. During arthroscopy surgery, your surgeon detaches the tendon from the elbow bone, repairs it and then reattaches it. The added advantage of elbow arthroscopy is that your surgeon is able to look closely within the elbow to see if there is any other source of pain.
- Arthritis – Your elbow joint can collect loose debris or cartilage as a result of arthritis or an injury, resulting in pain and a limited range of motion in your elbow. Arthroscopy surgery removes the debris in a minimally invasive way that is easier on the patient's recovery.
- Bone spurs – Bone spurs (little hooks of bone) may develop around the joint in the early stages of elbow arthritis and impede the normal motion of the joint. Arthroscopy is an effective procedure for removing these invasive structures and restoring more normal motion to the joint.
- Thrower's elbow – Baseball pitchers and other "throwing" athletes can get this painful overuse injury. Pitching a baseball, for example, places tremendous force on the elbow. Over time, a bone spur can form in the back of the elbow joint, but can be removed with arthroscopy.
- Elbow arthrofibrosis – When your elbow experiences an injury, surgery or another kind of trauma, the joint can stiffen as a result. Elbow arthrofibrosis can become so severe that it limits the normal motion of your elbow. The minimally invasive aspect of arthroscopy has the added benefit of creating less scar tissue than an open surgery approach, and your chance of regaining lost elbow motion is greater.
- Cartilage damage – Certain problems with the cartilage in your elbow, especially a condition called osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), can be repaired with arthroscopy surgery. OCD is a joint condition in which a piece of cartilage, along with a thin layer of the bone beneath it, becomes loose from the end of a bone. In the elbow, the cartilage fragment can jam between the moving parts of your elbow, causing severe pain and incapacitating your elbow. The arthroscopy procedure can diagnose the full extent of the damage and repair it.