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Dr MARC BEAUCHAMP MD FRCSC
Private orthopedic surgery clinic, Montreal, Canada Shoulder and elbow surgery, arthroscopy
Private orthopedic surgery Montreal, Canada
Elbow Elbow anatomyCommon problemsTendinitis of the elbow, lateral epicondylitisTendinitis of the elbow, medial epicondylitisTendinitis of the elbow, distal bicepsOsteoarthritis of the elbow
Shoulder anatomy

Osteoarthritis of the elbow

Unlike osteoarthritis in other joints, osteoarthritis that primarily affects the elbow occurs in younger patients (in their thirties). It is often caused by a family or genetic pathology or is the result of previous fractures or dislocations.

The elbow tolerates osteoarthritis well; consultations are usually late, when the osteoarthritis is already at an advanced stage. Pain associated with extreme movements (carrying a bucket, for example) is the most common complaint. The loss of motion is gradual and becomes disabling when more than 30° extension or 40° flexion is lost. La douleur associée aux mouvements extrêmes (le transport d’un seau d’eau par exemple) est la plainte la plus répandue. La perte de mouvement est progressive et devient invalidante quand on perd plus de 30° d’extension ou 40° de flexion.

Other than avoiding extreme efforts that involve impact or vibration, there is as yet no treatment to prevent the progression of osteoarthritis. Instead the symptoms are treated (standard treatment for inflammation: rest, cold, NSAIDs, physiotherapy).

If osteoarthritis progresses to the point where it causes chronic, debilitating pain, debridement surgery (the excision of bone spurs, or osteophytes, with or without capsular release or synovectomy) may be proposed.

Total joint replacement may also be indicated but is reserved for extreme cases of severe disability. The success rate of this tricky procedure is lower than for rheumatoid arthritis. The outcome of joint replacement surgery is mitigated when osteoarthritis is the result of a fracture or dislocation.

 

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