Total elbow replacement


Replacement of damaged elbow is often less common. However, this surgery is successful to treat a painful elbow. The elbow joint consists of two arm bones- the humerus and the ulna. Artificial joint parts (prosthesis) are used to replace the damaged parts of these bones. Another name for total elbow replacement is total elbow arthroplasty. The damage to elbow may occur from any disease or traumatic injury. The new elbow almost lasts for a period of 10 years.


The patient is much likely admitted to hospital a day before surgery. The doctor examines the patient for proper health. At the time of surgery, general anesthesia is often given to make the patient unconscious. Medicines are also given to provide a relaxed feeling. At the back of the arm, a tiny cut is made. This cut enables the doctor to approach the bones in the elbow joint. The scar tissues and spurs from these bones are then cleared out. In the center of the two arm bones, a hole is made. Inside these holes, the end portion of the artificial elbow is placed. A hinge is used to connect the ends of artificial elbow. The wound is closed using sutures. A compression bandage is then applied over the wound.


The patient may need to stay in hospital observation for 2-3 days after surgery. To stabilize the arm, a splint is provided over the arm. Several doses of antibiotics are prescribed by the doctor to prevent infection. Appropriate medications are used to relief pain and other discomforts of surgery. A well-planned rehabilitation program is essential for active movement of elbow. Physical therapy is an important perspective of this program. Simple set of exercises included in this therapy provides improved strength and mobility to the arm. The arm often recovers in 12 weeks after surgery.


The common risks in elbow replacement surgery are:

  • Joint stiffness, pain or instability
  • Wearing of prosthesis
  • Injury to nearby nerves or blood vessels
  • Allergic reaction to artificial joint
  • Fracture
  • Infection


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