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Elbow arthroscopy

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What is it? 

This technique is rapidly evolving to the point where it is now possible to carry out many elbow procedures using this form of keyhole surgery, including: Lateral epicondylar release (tennis elbow), Capsular release (soft tissue contracture), Osteocapsular release (osteoarthritis), Removal of loose bodies, Debridement of defects (osteochondritis), Excision of radial head, Assessment of an unstable elbow, Synovectomy (rheumatoid arthritis), Synovial biopsy (for diagnostic purposes).

What is it? 

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How is it diagnosed? 

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What is my approach to treatment? 

Surgery is normally carried out either as a day case or with an overnight stay depending on the actual procedure undertaken. It is performed under general anaesthetic with a tourniquet applied to the upper limb. 2-6 small cuts of no more than 4mm width are made around the elbow, allowing insertion of a telescope (arthroscope) and instruments to carry out the surgery. On completion of the procedure the skin is closed with non-absorbable sutures. A long acting local anaesthetic injection is administered into the portals and joint to provide pain relief. A dressing and bandaging are then applied.

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What does an operation involve? 

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What is the recovery period? 

Once the local anaesthetic has worn off, normally 6 to 8 hours, simple analgesic tablets may be used for pain relief. The hand and fingers should be used immediately. Bandaging is normally reduced within the first 72 hours to allow movement of the elbow joint, to prevent long term stiffness. Sutures are removed in the clinic at 10 to 14 days. The wound should be kept dry and clean until the sutures are removed. Prior to this it’s possible to shower by keeping the extremity dry with a plastic bag secured over the limb using an elastic band or a purpose made shower cover. The elbow may then be moved under supervision of a physiotherapist, if needed. A patient’s recovery and return to driving, work or sports will depend on the exact procedure undertaken.

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Are there any possible complications? 

Complications do occur and the exact rates vary depending on the procedure. This will be discussed during your consultation.

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