Elbow Surgery

Cutting-Edge Solutions from Great River Orthopaedic Specialists

Our elbows are a hinge joint at the center of our arm made of up three bones: The humerus (the upper arm bone), the radius, and the ulna (both our forearm bones). When we bend our elbow, the both of these forearm bones rub against the humerus. This joint is essential to everyday mobility and functioning and can often be repaired via surgery when needed. To learn more about our elbow surgery treatments, contact us at Great River Orthopaedic Specialists today.

illustration of elbow surgery

In a healthy elbow joint, the surfaces of these bones are very smooth and covered with a tough protective tissue called cartilage. Arthritis causes damage to the bone and cartilage where the three bones rub together. These damaged surfaces eventually become painful.

Arthritic Elbow Joint Surfaces There are many ways to treat the pain caused by arthritis, including surgery. In total elbow-replacement surgery, an artificial hinge made of metal and a very durable plastic material is inserted into the joint so the elbow can move without allowing the two forearm bones to contact the humerus. This artificial hinge is called an “implant.”

The decision to have total elbow-replacement surgery should be made very carefully after talking to your physician and learning as much as you can about the elbow joint, arthritis and the surgery.

After Elbow Surgery

The following are some ways to incorporate movement after you have had elbow replacement surgery. Discuss these techniques with your physicians and orthopaedist before attempting them. Your physical therapist may modify some of these techniques depending on your situation (i.e., age, weight, and procedure). Only do the techniques that are recommended by your physician and/or therapist.

It is very important that you follow your surgeon's instructions. The following suggestions should be discussed with your surgeon before your hospital discharge:

  • Do not use your surgery arm to get up out of bed or from a chair position. Use the opposite arm.
  • Your doctor will likely give you a list of exercises to do once you're home. Be certain to follow your doctor's instructions, but typically you will be asked to do these four or five times a day for a month or so.
  • You may experience less pain after surgery, which may make you believe you can do more. Be certain to follow your doctor's instructions so that you don't overdo it.
  • The amount of weight you can lift using your surgery arm will be limited. Your doctor may recommend that you don't lift anything heavier than one pound for the first twelve weeks and that you avoid lifting anything heavier than five pounds after recovery.
  • You may need to wear the sling every night for at least the first month.
  • You will likely need to avoid contact sports after surgery. Your doctor will discuss these restrictions with you.
  • Remember that you will probably tire more easily than usual. You may want to plan a rest period of 30 to 60 minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
  • Avoid sweeping, mopping, and running the vacuum cleaner using your surgery arm. Use long-handled feather dusters for dusting high and low items. Your doctor will tell you when it is okay to sweep, mop, and vacuum.
  • Constipation is a common problem for patients following surgery. This is usually due to your limited activity and any pain medications you may be taking. Discuss your diet with your doctor. It should include fresh fruits and vegetables as well as eight full glasses of liquid each day unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
  • Your doctor will probably give you a prescription for pain pills. Please follow your doctor's instructions concerning these medications.
  • Some swelling around the incision is normal. You will find it more comfortable to wear loose clothing to avoid pressure on the incision. Ask your doctor or other qualified health professional about appropriate wound care.