Patient Care : Elbow Replacement

Elbow Replacement Procedure

Elbow replacements are less common than hip and knee replacements because there is normally less wear and tear on those joints, and patients often tolerate elbow and shoulder arthritis better than hip and knee conditions. For those who don’t, surgery can offer relief.

The primary reason for doing a total elbow replacement is pain – such as that experienced by patients with serious degenerative or rheumatoid arthritis. Another subset of candidates for the procedure includes patients with unreconstructable joint fractures.

The elbow joint is made up of 2 bones: 1 from the upper arm (the humerus) and 1 from the lower arm (the ulna). The artificial elbow joint has 2 stems made of high-quality metal. A metal and plastic hinge joins the stems together rand allows the artificial joint to bend. Artificial joints come in different sizes to fit different- size people.

Your surgeon will make an incision to expose your elbow joint. Usually this incision is made in the back of the upper and lower arm.

  • Your surgeon will remove the sections of the humerus and the ulna that make up your elbow joint. Any damaged tissue will also be removed.
  • Then your surgeon will drill out the part of the center of the humerus and ulna. An end of the artificial joint stems will be inserted into each bone.
  • Usually, bone cement is used to hold the stems in place.
  • Next, your surgeon will attach the 2 stems together with the hinge.
  • Your incision will be closed with sutures. It will be bandaged, and your arm may be placed in a splint to keep it stable.

Before the Procedure

Always tell your doctor or nurse what drugs you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.

During the 2 weeks before your surgery

  • You may be asked to stop taking drugs that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other drugs.
  • Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery.
  • If you have diabetes, heart disease, or other medical conditions, your surgeon will ask you to see your doctor who treats you for these conditions.

On the day of your surgery

  • You will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything for 6 to 12 hours before the procedure.
  • Take your drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.

After the Procedure

You may stay in the hospital for up to 3 or 4 days.

You may have a splint on your arm to help stabilize your elbow. Your doctor will prescribe physical therapy to help you gain strength and use of your arm. Physical therapy will start with gentle flexing exercises. People who have a splint usually start physical therapy a few weeks later.