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More About Elbow Replacement Surgery

In elbow replacement surgery, the damaged parts of the bones are replaced with artificial components made from two implants that is attached to the bones in your arm. A metal and plastic material hinge could join the implants together. It is a complicated procedure that has moving parts that need to be balanced with great precision to control the movement of the forearm. Elbow Replacement surgery is gaining popularity among older adults to replace joints damaged by fractures.


Types of Elbow Replacement

The elbow joint connects three bones such as:

  • The humerus in the upper arm
  • The ulna and radius in the forearm

There are different types of elbow replacement and come in varying sizes.

  • In some cases, only one portion of the joint may need to be replaced. For example, if the head of the radius bone is damaged, then an artificial head could be used to replace it.
  • In other cases, the entire bones may be needed to be replaced.


Types of prosthetics available

  • Linked: This prosthetic material acts like a loose hinge as all parts of the replacements are connected. It gives good stability however, stress of movements can result in the prosthetic working itself loose.
  • Unlinked: It comes in two separate pieces that are not connected with each other. It depends on the ligaments surrounding it to hold the joints together which makes it prone to dislocation. 


Causes of Elbow Pain

  • Injury: This could be a one-off event like falling which results in:
    • Dislocated elbow
    • Fractured elbow
    • Strains and sprains
  • Wear and tear injuries: Certain repeated actions could cause elbow pain like:
    • Bursitis
    • Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow
    • Stress fractures
    • Stressed nerves
  • Diseases: It may not be the main symptom, but certain diseases could cause pain:
    • Arthritis
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Osteochondritis dissecans 
    • Gout
    • Lupus
    • Lyme disease


Symptoms of Elbow Pain

Symptoms differ depending on the causes and patients could experience:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Stiffness
  • Limiting elbow function
  • Burning or numbness in arm, hand, or fingers


Diagnosis and tests for elbow pain

Physical examination of the affect area

  • X-Ray
  • MRI Scan
  • Arthrogram testing
  • Blood tests



Before Procedure

  • Complete physical examination by your orthopaedic surgeon
  • Performing diagnostic tests
  • Reviewing of your medical history and tests
  • If you have chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease etc, you must be evaluated by your doctor before surgery
  • Some medications like aspirin, arthritis medicines may be stopped
  • At home, make sure the things that are necessary are all placed on low shelves or within easy reach
  • You may also ask help from someone to do daily chores for some time after the surgery
  • Quit smoking as this will make your wound heal slower
  • You may be asked to stop eating and drinking hours before surgery
  • Inform your surgeon if you have been drinking a lot of alcohol
  • Inform your doctor of any cold, flu, or any other illness before surgery.

During Procedure

  • You will be given general anaesthetic, so you will be asleep and feel no pain
  • It will take about 2 hours to operate
  • A small incision will be done at the back of your elbow and muscles will be moved aside to access the bone
  • The damaged tissues and parts of the elbow joint will be removed
  • A drill is made in the centre of the arm bones
  • The ends of the prosthetic joint are glued in the place to each bone
  • They are connected with a hinge
  • The surrounding tissue is repaired
  • The wound is closed with stitches and bandage applied
  • To make your arm stable, a splint may be used

After Procedure

  • You may stay in the hospital for about 2 – 4 days
  • You will experience some pain, which is part of the healing process
  • Medications may be given to control pain
  • You may be assisted with a physical therapist to regain your movement and strength
  • You will need to avoid putting pressure on your arm for at least 6 weeks after surgery
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects as this could damage the prosthesis
  • Recovery can be 12 weeks after surgery or may take even up to a year
  • Follow-up will be scheduled.


Risks and complications

Risks and complications could happen on the surgery itself or may develop after over time. Most complications could successfully be treated like:

  • Infections
  • Implant problems
  • Nerve injury
  • Wound healing


Factors affecting the cost of elbow replacement

Other factors could also affect the cost such as:

  • Choice of hospital
  • Location of the hospital
  • Duration of hospital stay
  • Surgeon’s fee
  • Cost for blood tests and diagnostic tests
  • Medical care

Frequently Asked Questions Involving elbow replacement surgery

Q: How will Elbow Replacement affect my arm?
A: Elbow Replacement surgery will relieve your pain, stabilize your arm and restore normal functioning of your arm as much as possible. 


Q: Why do I need an Elbow Replacement surgery?
A: If you have had an injury and the pain is persistent, wear and tear injuries due to repeated actions, or if you have diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. 


Q: What is involved in the surgery?
A: In the surgery, damaged parts of the bones are replaced with artificial joints or prosthesis.


Q: What materials are used as prosthesis?
A: The prosthesisis made up of high-quality materials like titanium and plastics.


Q: Are this materials toxic to my body?
A: Metals implanted in the elbow and other materials are non-corrosive and, non-reactive. They are non-toxic to your body.


Q: How long does the surgery last?
A: This usually takes around 2 hours.


Q: Will I experience some pain?
A: You will be under general anaesthesia so, during the surgery, you not feel any pain. However, after surgery you will experience some degree of pain, which is part of the normal healing. Medications will be given to you to control pain. 


Q: Why would I need a splint?
A: A splint will enable your arm to stabilise. You may wear it for a few weeks.


Q: How long is the hospital stay?
A: It will take around 2 to 4 days to recover in the hospital.


Q: Will I need a physiotherapist?
A: Yes. A physiotherapist will help you during your hospital stay to familiarize you with exercises that will strengthen your arms and restore their functions.


Q: How long does it take to recover?
A: Recovery for this surgery takes 12 weeks to a year.


Q: When will I be able to drive?
A: You could drive 4 – 6 weeks after surgery or when your doctor allows you to.


Q: What home care should I follow-up?
A: You should keep all necessary items at home within your reach or in low shelves. Make sure you avoid lifting heavy objects. You may also need help with daily chores for the first few months.


Q: How long will the elbow replacement last?
A: It could last up to 10 years. After this, it may loosen or wear out.


Q: Can there be a second replacement surgery?
A: Yes, there can a second replacement surgery but, this will not be as effective in easing the symptoms.


Q: How successful is Elbow Replacement surgery?
A: More than 90% of patients consider this surgery to be successful. This surgery is also getting popular among ageing adults.


Q: When can I fly after surgery?
A: It is advisable to wait up to 6 weeks at least after surgery. You may consult with your orthopaedic surgeon. Also, you may need to familiarize yourself with the airline’s health and safety measure before embarking on a journey and, may need to carry a certificate since the metal will be detected during security checks.


Q: Do I need Oral Polio Vaccination Certificate?
A: Yes. All travellers from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, and Israel must carry an Oral Polio Vaccination (OPV) Certificate which must be taken not earlier than 6 weeks before entry. This rule applies to both adults and children.


Q: Can I get visa on arrival if I travel to India for my treatment?
A: Yes, if you are from Japan, Cambodia, Finland, Indonesia, Philippines, Luxembourg, Myanmar, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and, Vietnam. Travelers from Bhutan, Nepal, and Maldives can enter India without a visa i.e. up to 90 days.


Q: What are the eligibility requirements for a medical visa to India?
A: If you have a valid passport and visa and are seeking medical treatment in a recognized and reputed hospital in India, then you can apply for a medical visa to India. Up to 2 attendants who are blood relatives can accompany the patient under separate attendant visas.


Q: Are the hospitals in your panel internationally accredited?
A: The Joint Commission International (JCI), which is a US-based agency, awards accreditation to international hospitals that meet the rigorous standards set forth bythe commission. At Vaidam, we are proud to associate with several JCI accredited Indian hospitals in our panel.