Osteoarthritis of the elbow occurs when the cartilage surface of the elbow is worn out or is damaged. This can happen because of a previous injury such as elbow dislocation or fracture. Most commonly, however, it is the result of a normal wearing away of the joint cartilage from age and activity.
Arthrolysis has been shown to provide symptom improvement and improved range of motion to a certain extent. It involves removing any loose bone/cartilage fragments or inflammatory/degenerative tissue in the joint. It also attempts to smooth out irregular surfaces and remove bone spurs.
After The Operation
You will find a dressing and padded bandages are applied after the surgery. Keep these dressings clean and dry and ensure that the arm is kept elevated in a sling or on pillows to reduce swelling. Begin moving the elbow joints as much as you can to prevent stiffness. Leave the dressing covering the wound until your follow up appointment which should be about 10-14 days after your operation. At this point the stitches will be removed and the wounds will be checked.
Approximately six weeks after the operation, a follow-up appointment will be made in order to asses the healing process of the elbow joint. In the best cases, normal activities may be reintroduced after three months and you may go back to driving once the stitches are out and you feel safe enough to do so.
Risks Of Surgery
Generally, this procedure is considered to be effective. However, some people may have problems. The commonest of these is swelling and stiffness which can be reduced by keeping the arm elevated and moving all free joints as soon as possible. Most patients notice that general swelling decreases dramatically after the first two weeks. You may experience weakness of grip strength in the hand following the surgery however this will improve with time. Stiffness in the elbow may persist for the first month but can be improved by arm exercises. Infection is also rare. Occasionally the soft tissues around the elbow become stiffened with calcified material after this sort of operation. This material can eventually turn into bone. This is called heterotopic ossification and can cause long-term stiffness of the joint.