The elbow is made of up three bones — the ulna, humerus, and radius — each of which is surrounded by protective cartilage. Any of these parts can suffer an injury, either over time, as a result of wear-and-tear, or from a sudden trauma, such as a car accident or fall.
Thankfully, various treatments can help ease elbow pain and mobility problems that result from injury. In some cases, elbow surgery is the best option. When it is, even the most invasive options can minimize symptoms.
Board-certified orthopedic sports medicine surgeon Dr. Stephen Fisher and the team at our offices in Cumming and Buford, Georgia, diagnose and treat elbow injuries with comprehensive care.
Let’s delve deeper into elbow surgeries, including how they work and what to expect afterward.
Why you might need elbow surgery
If more conservative treatments for your elbow condition fail to bring sufficient symptom relief or healing, you may be a candidate for elbow surgery. Dr. Fisher may also recommend surgery if your elbow pain is chronic, meaning it’s lasted at least six months regardless of treatment.
Particularly severe injuries, such as a major olecranon fracture, which affects the pointy part of your elbow, and debilitating arthritis may also qualify you for surgical care.
How elbow surgery works
There are numerous types of elbow surgeries, and they all aim to restore function and minimize symptoms such as pain and stiffness.
If you have inflammatory arthritis with only minimal cartilage damage, a synovectomy may help. This procedure removes the inflamed lining of your joint.
Tommy John surgery, also known as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, repairs a torn ligament in your elbow by replacing it with a tendon from another part of your body.
Dr. Fisher also offers arthroscopic elbow surgery for good candidates. This minimally invasive procedure uses specialized reconstruction techniques with fewer and smaller incisions to restore elbow stability.
What to expect after elbow surgery
The recovery process after elbow surgery depends on the patient, based on factors like overall health and procedure type. Non-smokers, for example, tend to heal more efficiently than smokers. Minimally invasive surgeries require less recovery time than traditional surgeries.
After moderately invasive elbow surgery, most people can return to their usual daily activities within 2-6 weeks, with full healing unfolding within six months.
After Tommy John surgery, you can expect to return to many athletic activities within 6-9 months and to competition within one year. Arthroscopic elbow surgery recovery may only take 6-8 weeks.
Regardless of your surgery type, you may need to wear an elbow cast or splint at first to keep your elbow stable and prevent additional injury.
You might also benefit from physical therapy (PT) throughout the healing process. Elbow PT can help restore flexibility and strength around the joint, allowing you to get back to your favorite activities.
To learn more about elbow surgery or get started with the care you need, call one of our convenient locations or book an appointment through our website today.