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Total Elbow Replacement

What is it?

Total elbow replacement surgery (arthroplasty) helps restore comfort and function to an elbow that is damaged by arthritis or injury.  In elbow arthritis the joint surface is destroyed by wear and tear, inflammation, or other injury.  This can make the elbow stiff and painful.

When arthritis has damaged or destroyed the elbow joint it can be replaced with a loosely hinged prosthesis that replaces the arthitis ends of the humerus (upper arm bone) and the ulna (one of the lower arm bones) at the joint where they meet. The replacement hinge, composed of plastic and metal, is connected to the two bones.

The goal of elbow replacement surgery is to restore function and decrease pain and stiffness. 

Before elbow replacement surgery your physician will try other options such as activity modification, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications.  Sometimes this alone will make the symptoms tolerable.  After all non-operative options have been exhausted your physician may recommend a total elbow replacement.

After surgery

Your physician may place the arm in an immobilizer for up to three weeks.  Once this is removed, your physician will recommend therapy.  Therapy will help you gain strength and use of your arm.  You should be able to fully use your arm in as soon as 12 weeks after surgery.  It may take up to a year to completely recover your strength and function.