Candidates tend to have a badly damaged elbow joint and cannot use their arm. They should have already exhausted other nonoperative, more conservative approaches such as physical therapy and oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Some causes of elbow joint damage include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Previously broken bone in the upper or lower arm near elbow
- Badly damaged or torn tissues in the elbow
- Tumor in or around the elbow joint
Patients who do not have a severely damaged elbow joint should consider more conservative forms of treating pain and loss of motion from elbow joint damage.
Like other surgeries, elbow replacement requires a complete physical examination with your primary care provider before surgery. You should inform your orthopedic surgeon of any medications or supplements you take, and comply with certain general surgery procedures such as preoperative blood testing and possible cessation of smoking or use of pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs one week prior. You will likely be asked to stop eating or drinking the night before the surgery.
Typically, a hospital stay of 2-4 days after the surgery is required, and you may be put on a course of preventative antibiotics. You will have a splint on your arm to keep your elbow still Patients will not be able to put any weight on their arm for 6 weeks after surgery, and gradually ease into full usage after a minimum of 12 weeks. A physical therapy regimen is necessary to help avoid swelling and stiffness of the elbow after the recovery process. Most patients will not achieve the full range of motion of the elbow joint, however, and may need to permanently refrain from strenuous or repetitive activities than can cause further elbow injury.
As with any surgery, there are risks of complications related to bleeding, blood clots, infection or adverse reactions to anesthesia. Other known complications include nerve or blood vessel injury. The artificial joint may cause an allergic reaction, or may loosen or wear with time. Joint stiffness or instability may occur with the new artificial joint, and weakness or failure of the arm tendons are also known complications.