Elbow Arthroscopy Overview

Arthroscopy has become today an excellent diagnostic and minimally invasive surgical tool used in the treatment of many different types of small bone and joint injuries and conditions - from assessing damage, to cartilage repair and reduction of joint inflammation.

The slender unobtrusive instruments used in an arthroscopic procedure are ideal for the anatomy of the elbow joint, where the bones lie close together and the nerves and blood vessels are located very close to the joint.

Elbow arthroscopy is often used in the removal of osteophytes, or bone spurs, resulting from osteoarthritis. It is also used to address adhesions and for capsular release in patients with contractures. It is used in the removal of loose bodies and to perform a synovectomy resultant of inflammatory arthritis.

Loose Body Removal
In the removal of loose bodies resulting from a fracture or degenerative condition, elbow arthroscopy yields a success rate of 90 percent or better. The loose bodies are removed with various sized graspers with "teeth," and the sheath of the arthroscope.

A synovectomy is the surgical removal of joint lining that has become inflamed as a result of excessive synovial fluid. The delicate instruments and fluid environment of arthroscopy enables careful maneuvering around the joint capsule, where the radial and ulnar nerves lie. Osteophytes and any visible scar tissue from previous joint damage are also removed during the procedure.

Capsular Release
A capsular release is the removal of synovial fluid causing the synovial membrane to become inflamed. It is performed after a synovectomy has failed to restore sufficient motion. Once all synovium is cleared from the joint capsule and the nerves are arthroscopically visualized and determined to be a safe distance from the cutter, the soft tissue behind the capsule is dissected away in order to create a safe plane for incision of the capsule. The capsule is then removed in stages.

Once the elbow is wrapped in compressive dressing and elevated when inactive to reduce swelling, patients are encouraged to move as soon after elbow arthroscopy as possible. Rehabilitative range of motion exercises can begin quickly following arthroscopic treatment of an elbow injury or condition, because of its noninvasive nature and small incision.