An elbow arthroscopy may be recommended to investigate or treat a number of issues within the elbow joint, or to diagnose the cause of pain in your hand or arm, such as tennis elbow, stiffness caused by arthritic conditions or an injury.

What is an elbow arthroscopy?

An elbow arthroscopy (also known as keyhole elbow surgery) allows your surgeon to see inside the elbow by using a thin tube with a camera that is inserted through small incisions in your skin, without the need to fully open the joint or make large incisions. Your surgeon can also treat some problems with small instruments during the procedure, such as repairing or removing torn tissue to help release stiffness.

What does an elbow arthroscopy involve?

The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic and takes about thirty minutes.

Your surgeon will usually make about two to four small incisions around the elbow joint. They will place a thin telescope (camera) through one of the incisions so they can examine the joint in detail and place surgical instruments through others if they need to treat any problems with the joint.

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Are there any alternatives to an elbow arthroscopy?

Problems inside a joint can often be diagnosed using tests such as CT and MRI scans. However, you may then need an arthroscopy to treat the problem.

Physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen can sometimes prevent or delay the need for an arthroscopy.

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What complications can happen?

As with any procedure, there can be risks associated with surgical procedures and general anaesthetic. General side effects such as pain, bleeding or difficulty passing urine are most often temporary and should ease over time. However, should any unexpected or longer term side effects arise, please do not hesitate to contact the Horder Healthcare team to help correct them.

General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Scarring
  • Blood clots
  • Difficulty passing urine (as a result of anaesthesia)

Specific complications

  • Damage to nerves around the elbow
  • Developing a lump under the wound
  • Bleeding into the joint
  • Infection in the elbow joint
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the arm and hand (complex regional pain syndrome)

Information leaflet

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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Acknowledgements
Prof Adam Watts MBBS FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)
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Copyright © 2019 EIDO Healthcare Limited
The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by the Horder Centre. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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