Elbow Osteoarthritis

What are the signs of elbow osteoarthritis?

The general signs of elbow osteoarthritis are a loss of mobility, occasional elbow locking, and pain when extending the arm. Simple x-rays are used to confirm a diagnosis.

What are the possible complications if left untreated?

The main complications that can occur if elbow osteoarthritis is left untreated include reduced activities, increased pain, and the progressive loss of elbow mobility.

What are the non-surgical treatments?

If there is no loss of function, surgery is not indicated for patients who maintain flexion of 130 degrees or more and who have lost less than 30 degrees of extension. There are also several non-surgical treatment options for people with elbow osteoarthritis.

  • Rest, ice, and oral anti-inflammatory drugs are sufficient in the majority of cases.
  • Cortisone injections (no more than one or two per year) may also provide relief.

What is the surgical treatment?

If, however, the loss of mobility has led to a loss of arm function, arthroscopic surgery may be recommended to remove any bone fragments. Open surgery may be required if any bone spurs (osteophytes) need to be removed.

About the procedure

  • Outpatient procedure
  • Length of procedure: 45 to 90 minutes
  • General anesthesia is usually required.

Post-surgical recovery

Patients may be escorted home approximately one hour after their procedure. Patients must take pain relievers during the first few days after surgery. A post-operative follow-up is required two weeks after the procedure to remove the patient’s stitches.

About recovery

  • A splint must be worn for several weeks to immobilize the elbow.
  • Physiotherapy is usually needed and discussed during the first post-operative follow-up.
  • Recovery rate: 75% to 90%, depending on the severity of the osteoarthritis
  • Complication rate: less than 1%

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