Elbow arthroscopy is a non-invasive surgical technique used by orthopedic surgeons to diagnose and treat different conditions affecting the elbow. Unlike other joints, the elbow connects three bones that allow for support and movement of the arm. Numerous fibers and tissues in the elbow make it difficult to diagnose or treat elbow injuries and other conditions, hence the need for elbow arthroscopy.

When is elbow arthroscopy recommended?

Orthopedic surgeons recommend elbow arthroscopy for patients who experience elbow pain that doesn’t respond to non-surgical treatment. Treatments recommended during the first appointment for elbow pain include:

  • Rest
  • Oral or topical medication
  • Injection
  • Physical therapy

These treatments are aimed at reducing inflammation, which is the most common cause of elbow pain. When first-response treatment fails, your doctor may recommend elbow arthroscopy to further investigate the cause of your pain.

How is elbow arthroscopy performed?

Elbow arthroscopy allows for a more thorough examination of the elbow by giving access to internal images from multiple angles. Before the procedure, your orthopedic surgeon will conduct an MRI to examine the soft tissues surrounding the bones in search for any irregularities.

The procedure itself involves filling your elbow with fluid for a clearer view of your elbow structure. The fluid also reduces the risk of injuring blood vessels and nerves surrounding the joint. The surgeon will then make small incisions on your elbow and insert an arthroscope, which has a small camera. The surgeon uses small instruments to perform and complete the procedure. Afterwards, the incisions will either be covered with a soft dressing or plaster splint, depending on the extent of the surgery.

What’s the expected recovery time after elbow arthroscopy?

Unlike other invasive surgical procedures, elbow arthroscopy does no damage to soft tissues surrounding the elbow joint, allowing for quick recovery. Post-operative recovery takes 1-2 hours as the effects of anesthesia wear off. However, more complex procedures may require overnight hospital admission for administration of pain medication and monitoring your responsiveness.

Some pain and discomfort is to be expected for several weeks post-op, which can be managed with pain medication. With proper rehabilitation, you can expect complete recovery between a few weeks to a few months depending on the specific treatment procedure performed.

To learn more about elbow arthroscopy and other orthopedic procedures, or to determine if elbow arthroscopy may be right for you, please contact us today.