Advanced arthritis of the elbow can be treated with an elbow replacement (arthroplasty).
Typical symptoms of elbow arthritis include:
- Pain - Generally worse as you rotate the forearm. As the condition progresses pain interrupts sleep during the night
- Swelling (more common with rheumatoid arthritis)
- Instability of the joint
- Inability to extend or flex the elbow
- Locking and stiffness
When is surgery appropriate?
Elbow replacement surgery is usually done if your doctor has assessed your elbow as being badly damaged by osteoarthritis or if the pain is persistent and severe and you cannot use your arm.
Surgery may also be appropriate may for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a badly broken bone in the upper or lower arm near the elbow, badly damaged or torn elbow tissues, a tumour or a very stiff elbow.
During a total elbow replacement procedure, the damaged parts of the elbow-hinged joint are removed and replaced with artificial components called prostheses.
Replacement options include a hemiarthoplasty where part of the joint is replaced not the olecranon (the bony point of the elbow); a total elbow arthroplasty where the end of the humerus and olecranon is replaced with a metal and plastic hinged joint.
The decision as to which prosthesis is used is dependent on your surgeon, the degree of your arthritis and your age.
As the elbow is a much smaller joint than a knee or a hip there is generally a 3kg lifting restriction applied following surgery to prevent the plastic wearing out too soon.