Joint replacement surgery can be done on different parts of the body. Although hip and knee replacements are among the most common, you can have an elbow joint replaced too. If you have arthritis in your elbow that gives you frequent pain and limits the motion of your arm, your doctor might recommend elbow joint replacement surgery. Here's a look at what it entails.
An Elbow Replacement May Require A Hospital Stay
Elbow replacement surgery is often done as an inpatient procedure with general anesthesia, and you may need to stay in the hospital a few days. Before the surgery is scheduled, you'll have a thorough medical examination to make sure you're a good candidate for the procedure and to undergo anesthesia. Certain medical conditions and medications might complicate the surgery, so your doctor wants to make sure you're in a good position before considering a joint replacement.
An Artificial Hinge Replaces Your Joint
Your elbow is where the bone in your upper arm meets the two bones in your lower arm. They are padded with cartilage so they can glide smoothly when you bend your arm. Arthritis is a condition that wears away the cartilage, and when this happens, arm movement is painful. Your elbow may even hurt when you're at rest. Joint replacement surgery removes the damaged parts of your elbow such as the cartilage and ends of the bones.
Then, a hinge made of plastic and metal parts is attached to the bones in your upper and lower arm. Once the surgery has healed, the hinge allows your arm to move and bear weight without pain. You may even have a greater range of motion once the damaged elbow tissues are removed.
Recovery Can Take Several Weeks
You won't have full use of your arm for several weeks, so you have to plan for your recovery. If you have help at home, you might recover at home. If you live alone and can't arrange the help you need, then you might need to recover at a rehab facility where you'll have help with bathing and dressing. Plus a rehab facility provides easy access to physical therapy treatments. Physical therapy is an important part of recovering from an elbow replacement. You'll probably be taught exercises while you're still in the hospital. Moving your hands and wrists helps prevent swelling, and you'll work up to exercising your entire arm to build strength and gain full range of motion.
Once your elbow has healed fully, you should be able to do most normal activities, but your doctor might restrict certain things like playing sports that put you at risk of a bone fracture or damage to the artificial joint.