Total Elbow Replacement
The technique of total elbow replacement removes the damaged bone and cartilage in a joint. The diseased surfaces are replaced with an implant made of metal alloy on one side and polyethylene (plastic) on the other side. Elbow implants are designed to replace the hinge mechanism in a healthy elbow, to restore movement and decrease or eliminate pain.
Benefits of Total Elbow Replacement
- Eliminate or reduce pain
- Enhance movement and mobility
- Improve quality of life
- Return to normal activity
- Low-impact sports and activities
Total elbow replacement is one option available to you and your surgeon. Only your orthopedic surgeon can determine if you are a candidate for this implant.
While uncommon, complications can occur during and after surgery. Some complications include infection, implant breakage, malalignment, and fracture. Although implant surgery is extremely successful in most cases, some patients still experience stiffness and pain. No implant will last forever and factors such as the patient’s post-surgical activities and weight can affect longevity. Be sure to discuss these and other risks with your surgeon.
Preparing for Surgery
Patients should begin preoperative strengthening exercises to help them prepare for surgery and their recovery. Patients may be given a comprehensive nutrition plan to help ensure optimum health before surgery.
There are many things that your surgeon may do to minimize the potential for complications. Your surgeon may have you see a medical physician before surgery to obtain tests. You may also need to have your dental work up to date and may be shown how to prepare your home to avoid falls.
After surgery, you probably will be hospitalized for 1 to 3 days. The arm is typically immobilized for comfort in a long-arm dressing and protective splint for the first 3 to 5 days. Range of motion exercises may be started after the dressing and splint are removed, allowing for some return to light activities of daily living. At 10 to 14 days, the sutures are removed. Strengthening usually begins 6 weeks after surgery.
At home, it is important to continue with your exercises as your physician has instructed. It is a good idea to enlist the help of friends or family to help you once you do return home.
Patients who have had total elbow replacement typically require many weeks before returning to any type of lifting or repetitive movement activities. Every person’s recovery time will vary, but most people should be able to drive in 4 to 6 weeks, garden in 2 months, and golf in 3 months after surgery. Your surgeon will tell you when you can return to these activities and will also tell you which activities to avoid.
You will typically not be allowed to participate in high-impact activities, contact sports, "jamming" activities such as hammering, heavy or repetitive lifting, or activities. These types of activities place extreme pressure on the elbow joint, which could lead to complications.
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