Elbow replacement is surgery to replace the damaged or diseased bones that make up the elbow joint with artificial parts (prostheses), typically made of metal and plastic. The artificial parts are designed to be flexible and strong, and to move like a normal elbow thus alleviating pain and restoring mobility. It is usually considered a last resort when all other treatment options have failed.

Understanding the procedure

Elbow replacement surgery involves an incision (cut), usually in the back of the upper and lower arm, to expose the elbow joint. The lower end of the bone in the upper arm (humerus) and the upper end of the large bone in the lower arm (ulna) are removed along with any damaged tissue. The surgeon drills out part of the center of each bone and inserts one part of the artificial joint into each hole. Usually a special kind of bone cement is used to hold the parts in place. When the cement is hard, the two parts are brought together and the pin is inserted to connect them. This creates hinge that allows the artificial elbow joint to bend.

Indications for the procedure

Candidates for elbow replacement surgery typically experience deep, severe pain at the elbow joint, difficulty with activities that require use of the arm, and little or no relief from more conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, lifestyle changes, anti-inflammatory medications, bracing and other less invasive surgery.