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Elbow surgery

Fast diagnosis and treatment for elbow problems

Your elbow joint is formed of three bones: your ulnar and radius (these are two adjacent bones in your forearm) and the humerus (a bone in your upper arm). The ends of these bones are covered in a protective layer called your cartilage. The elbow joint allows you to straighten and rotate your forearm. It is crucial for many of the daily actions and activities we take for granted. 

Damage to structures inside your joint such as your cartilage, bones, and tendons (tissue that connects your muscle to bone) can lead to pain, swelling and affect the movement of your elbow or arm. Understandably, this discomfort brings with it a significant impact on quality of life. 

If you have suffered an elbow injury or are living with gradual or chronic pain in your elbow, you don't have to suffer in silence. There are many effective treatments available to help ease, manage or even completely eradicate the pain, stiffness and discomfort that can come from damage to your elbow joint. 

At The Priory Hospital in Birmingham, an Orthopaedic Surgeon can investigate your symptoms by performing a diagnostic assessment. After a diagnosis has been confirmed, your Orthopaedic Consultant will work with a multidisciplinary team of specialists, – including Pain Management Consultants and Physiotherapists – to establish a personalised treatment plan tailored to your needs. This could consist of pain relief medication, steroid injections to alleviate pain and swelling and private physiotherapy sessions. If these treatment options do not improve your symptoms, your Orthopaedic Surgeon could recommend surgery.

Conditions that can be treated with elbow surgery

Elbow surgery can be performed to treat the following conditions:

Osteoarthritis: This form of arthritis occurs when the cartilage cushioning your joint wears out. As a result, your bones begin to rub together which, in turn, can lead to pain, stiffness and muscle weakness. You might experience a locking sensation that could make it difficult to straighten your elbow. Although the natural and wear tear of your joints from ageing is the most common cause of osteoarthritis, the risk is increased if you have a family history of the condition, if you are obese, or if you have had a previous injury to your elbow.

Golfer’s elbow: The medical term for golfer's elbow is medial epicondylitis. It causes pain in the inside of your elbow. It is often the result of the tendon inside your elbow becoming inflamed and strained due to activities or sports that involve repetitive hand or wrist movements.

Tennis elbow: In contrast to golfer’s elbow, tennis elbow (also known as lateral epicondylitis) can cause pain on the outside of your elbow. It is often triggered by repetitive or strenuous movements in your forearm which can cause inflammation in the tendon on the outside of your elbow.

Ulnar nerve compression: Your ulnar nerve is one of the primary nerves in your arm and passes from your neck to your hand. Unfortunately, your elbow is a common part of your body where your ulnar nerve can become compressed. This is known as cubital tunnel syndrome. It can lead to elbow pain, numbness in your fingers, and a weakened grip.

Fracture: This refers to a break or crack in one or more of the bones inside your elbow, which could be caused by an injury or a fall. If you develop a fracture in your olecranon (the tip of your elbow), this can cause sudden pain, numbness in your fingers, and an inability to move your arm. A fracture in your radial head (the top of your radius) could cause pain, difficulty straightening your arm and an inability to rotate your forearm. If your fractured bones have shifted out of their normal position, you could require elbow fracture surgery to reposition these bones.

Common symptoms that can be treated with elbow surgery

Your Orthopaedic Surgeon at The Priory Hospital in Birmingham will also consider surgery if your condition is affecting your quality of life. Your condition might cause the following symptoms:

Significant or persistent pain: Severe elbow pain can impact several aspects of your life from disrupting your sleep to affecting your performance at work and your ability to engage in social activities. An elbow arthroscopy or an open operation could be performed to alleviate persistent pain from tennis or golfer’s elbow. Your golfer or tennis elbow arthroscopy or open operation will involve removing any damaged tissue and releasing any strain on your affected tendon.

Severe stiffness: This can affect your ability to perform simple everyday activities, from eating to getting dressed to showering. Severe stiffness an cause your elbow to become bent, which can put pressure on your ulnar nerve (the nerve that passes down your upper arm and through your cubital tunnel, located on the inside of your elbow).

Locking sensation: In addition to stiffness, you could experience a locking sensation that might make it difficult to straighten your arm. Elbow replacement surgery could relieve stiffness in your arm or elbow.

Disrupted sleep: Elbow problems can impact your sleep by causing pain when you lie down or roll onto the affected area. Poor sleep can lead to an increased sensitivity to pain and as a result, you could experience more intense pain. In addition to causing worsened pain, chronic sleep deprivation can increase your risk of developing health conditions such as type 2 diabetes or a mental health disorder.

Don’t battle in silence with your symptoms. At The Priory Hospital, you can receive a private consultation with an Orthopaedic Consultant within 48 hours of getting in touch. You can do this by submitting an online enquiry or contacting a member of our team by phoning us on 0121 4402323. You can also book your consultation online.

At your initial consultation at The Priory Hospital in Birmingham, your Orthopaedic Surgeon will talk to you about your symptoms, including when they first appeared and how they have been affecting your day-to-day life. Your Consultant will also discuss your medical history which will include questions about your past treatment and current medication.

After this discussion, your Surgeon will examine the affected area and could recommend an X-ray or MRI scan to look at the structures inside your elbow. While an X-ray enables your Consultant to identify any unusual changes in your bones, an MRI allows the nerves, blood vessels and muscles around your joint to be seen. These painless scans can help confirm a diagnosis.

Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, your Orthopaedic Consultant will work a team of medical experts at The Priory Hospital in Birmingham to establish a tailored treatment programme. This could include steroid injection therapy, pain relief medication and private physiotherapy sessions at our hospital.

However, if your Orthopaedic Surgeon feels you could benefit from elbow surgery and these treatment options have not been able to improve your symptoms, surgery will then be considered. Your Orthopaedic Consultant will explain what this will involve, including how to prepare for your operation and the risks and benefits that are associated with your treatment.

Preparing for elbow surgery at The Priory Hospital in Birmingham

Prior to your operation at The Priory Hospital, you will be required to attend a preoperative assessment. Your preoperative assessment is a general health screening where your Consultant or a Nurse will measure your blood pressure, height, weight, and take a sample of your blood or urine. Although this assessment is used to ensure that you are fit to have surgery, it is also an opportunity for you learn more about your operation. Your Consultant will be more than happy to answer any questions that you might have.

As well as attending a preoperative assessment, your Orthopaedic Consultant will could you to prepare for surgery by keeping active to maintain your overall health. If your body mass index (BMI) is higher than the normal range, you will be encouraged to lose weight ahead of your operation. You could also be asked to quit smoking (if applicable) to help prevent anaesthesia-related complications.

On the day of your operation at The Priory Hospital, you will be taken to an operating theatre where your Consultant will administer a local anaesthetic injection to numb the area to be operated on or general anaesthetic which means you will be asleep throughout your operation. But the form of anaesthesia that is used will depend on your recommended treatment.

At The Priory Hospital in Birmingham, the types of elbow surgery that we offer include:  

Elbow arthroscopy

An elbow arthroscopy is a keyhole operation where your Orthopaedic Surgeon will create up to four incisions in the area around your elbow joint. Your Orthopaedic Surgeon will then pass an arthroscope (a thin tube with a camera) into one of your incisions to allow the inside of your joint to be seen on a video monitor. Specialised surgical instruments are then passed into the other incisions to perform your treatment. This could include removing bone spurs or loose bodies (cartilage or bone fragments that could be floating inside your joint) or releasing a thickened joint capsule (lining) to help your joint move more freely. An arthroscopy can also be performed to release an inflamed tendon (tendonitis) which could be caused by tennis or golfer’s elbow.

Tennis elbow surgery

Your Orthopaedic Surgeon can perform your tennis elbow surgery through an arthroscopy (keyhole elbow surgery) or an open operation where a single is incision is used instead. After locating the affected tendon, your Surgeon will create a small incision to release and clear the painful section of your tendon.

Total elbow replacement surgery

This operation involves making an incision in the back of your elbow to remove and replace the damaged sections of your humerus (upper arm bone) and ulna (a bone in your forearm) with artificial parts. These artificial parts, also known as a prosthesis, will form your new elbow joint. It will consist of a hinge with two stems that will fit into the hollow of both your ulna (lower arm bone) and humerus (upper arm bone). Your prosthesis could be made from metal, plastic or ceramic, or a mixture of these materials. It will be secured in place using bone cement (a synthetic resin).

After your operation has been performed, your incision(s) will be closed with stitches and a dressing will be placed over this area. Your Surgeon could place your arm into splint to protect your operated area.

How long does elbow surgery take?

The duration of your operation will depend on the type of surgery that you require. While an elbow arthroscopy could take around 30 minutes, a total elbow replacement operation might take up to two hours to perform.

At The Priory Hospital in Birmingham, you will be taken to a recovery ward following your operation. A Nurse will offer you refreshments and pain relief to reduce any post-operative discomfort or pain. If you have had an arthroscopy, you should be able to go home the same day. But if total elbow replacement operation was performed, you will be required to stay at our hospital for two to five days, depending on the progress of your recovery.

Before you leave our hospital in Birmingham, you will be seen by a physiotherapist who will provide you with exercises to strengthen the muscles around your elbow and promote movement. You will be encouraged to keep your arm elevated to reduce swelling around the operated area

Your elbow joint replacement recovery timeline

If you have had a joint replacement operation, your arm could be placed into a sling to protect your new joint. You might need to wear this for at least six weeks. After your joint replacement operation, you could be advised to avoid heavy lifting or activities that require pushing or pulling with a lot of force.

You should be able to drive again after six to eight weeks, but you must ensure that you have complete control over your vehicle first. While your return to work could take about eight to 10 weeks. Your Orthopaedic Surgeon will be able to share more information about when you can return to work and driving.

Recovery from an elbow arthroscopy

After an elbow arthroscopy, you should be able to resume your daily activities following a few weeks. But you will be advised to avoid lifting heavy objects or performing repetitive movements for at least 12 weeks (about three months).

Your tennis elbow surgery recovery timeline

After your tennis elbow surgery, you will be able to return to driving as soon as you feel comfortable and have complete control of your vehicle. You can slowly begin strengthening exercises after about six weeks. However, you will be asked to avoid repetitive sports or activities for around three months.

Is tennis elbow surgery successful?

Tennis elbow surgery has a success rate of 80 to 90%.

As with any treatment, there are certain complications that are associated with elbow surgery. These include:

A loosening of your prosthesis: If you have had a joint replacement, your prosthesis could become loosened or worn out over time. As a result, you could require elbow revision replacement surgery to remove and replace your artificial parts with a new prosthesis.

Scarring: You might have slight scarring around the site of your incision(s). But scarring can become less noticeable with time.

Bruising and swelling: Any bruising or swelling should resolve with time.

Infection: If you experience an infection, this could be treated with antibiotics or further surgery.

Blood clots: You will be given physiotherapy exercises to do and medication following your operation to reduce your risk of blood clots.

The cost of your private elbow treatment at The Priory Hospital in Birmingham will depend on your required operation and diagnosis.

Your Orthopaedic Surgeon will confirm the cost of your treatment in writing following your consultation.  

You can pay for the cost of your treatment at our hospital in Birmingham through your private medical insurance or using our flexible payment plans.

As the largest private hospital in Birmingham, we are proud to serve patients from our local community and those who travel from other parts of the UK and abroad. With more than 98% of our patients likely to recommend us to their friends, there are several reasons to have your treatment with us, including:  

  • Flexible appointment times that allow you to avoid the worry and hassle of finding a time that matches your schedule
  • Exceptional patient satisfaction rates with nearly 98% of our patients rating their quality of care as excellent or very good
  • Fast and easy access to a consultation within 48 hours of booking your appointment online or calling a member of our team
  • Free carparking space for all our patients
  • Conveniently access to our hospital from local train stations and Birmingham Airport which is less than a hour away from our hospital

For more information or to book a consultation with an Orthopaedic Consultant at The Priory Hospital in Birmingham, please contact a member of our team by calling us on 0121 4402323 or booking an appointment online.

Specialists offering Elbow surgery

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Mr Michael Alan Charles Craigen

Consultant Orthopaedic & Hand Surgeon

MB BS, FRCS London, FRCS Edinburgh, FRCS Orthopaedics, Dip.Hand Surg (Euro)

The Priory Hospital

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Mr Kirti Moholkar

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

FRCSI (Tr & Ortho), DSM

The Droitwich Spa Hospital 1 more The Priory Hospital

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Mr Marcus Adrian Green

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Bsc (1) hons, Mb ChB, FRCS, FRCS Tr and Orth, Dip IMC

The Priory Hospital

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Mr Talvinder Singh

Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon

MBBS, FRCS (Tr & Orth), European Diploma in Hand Surgery

The Meriden Hospital 1 more The Priory Hospital

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Professor Martyn Snow

Consultant Knee and Shoulder Surgeon

MBchB, MSc (Orth Eng), MRCS, FRCS (Trauma&Orth)

The Droitwich Spa Hospital 1 more The Priory Hospital

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Ms Deepa Bose

Consultant in Trauma & Orthopaedics

MBBS, FRCS, FRCS(Tr & Orth), MSc Orth Eng, MSc Med Edu

The Edgbaston Hospital 1 more The Priory Hospital

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