An elbow fracture not amenable to fixation (in an elderly patient)
Persistent joint instability after significant elbow trauma (in an elderly patient)
What are the risks and complications of elbow replacement surgery?
Elbow replacement surgery is a complicated procedure. This is because the elbow joint connects bones, ligaments, tendons and muscle that move together with great precision to control the movements of the forearm.
Like all surgical procedures, elbow replacement surgery carries some general risks, such as:
Allergic reaction to anaesthesia
Some other risks and complications specific to elbow replacement therapy include:
Blood vessel damage
Bone break during surgery
Dislocation of the artificial joint
Loosening of the artificial joint over time
Nerve damage during surgery
How do you prepare for elbow replacement surgery?
Before the operation, your doctor will review your medical history. You may also undergo some scans and tests.
Once your elbow replacement surgery scheduled, your doctor will advise you on how to prepare. In general, you need to fast 6 – 8 hours before the procedure.
Note: If you are taking any medication or herbal supplements, you should inform your doctor. You may need to adjust or stop taking some medication before the procedure (e.g. aspirin, blood thinners).
What can you expect in elbow replacement surgery?
Elbow replacement surgery is performed under general anaesthesia and you will be warded after the surgery to monitor your recovery.
The procedure lasts about 2 – 3 hours, depending on the extent of the damage or degeneration of the elbow joint.
During the procedure
During a total elbow replacement surgery, the damaged joint will be replaced with an artificial joint that consist of 2 main metal components for the upper arm and the lower arm, and a (polyethylene) plastic articulation at the hinge.
In a partial joint replacement, only part of the elbow joint surfaces are replaced. Partial elbow joint replacement are typically used for an un-reconstructable elbow fracture, and hence the need to replace part of the fractured elbow joint.
After the procedure
Post-operative pain is normal after the surgery and will be managed with medication. You may need to stay in the hospital for a few days.
You may need to wear a splint for a short while after surgery and limit the use of your elbow for a while.
Care and recovery period for elbow replacement surgery
The recovery process after elbow replacement surgery is different for everyone. The length and extent of recovery will depend on your health and the type of the surgery.
Usually, you will need some time to regain your full strength and normal activity. Physiotherapy is an important to regain strength and use of your arm. This will include gentle flexing exercises that help you to work on your range of motion.
In most cases, it takes about 4 – 6 weeks to begin using your elbow for simple functional activities like eating, showering, typing and driving. Full recovery can take up to a year.
With an elbow replacement, you will likely feel less pain and be able to use your arm better, but there will be limits to your strength.
To maintain the elbow replacement and prevent it from breaking or loosening, it is usually advised that you avoid:
Playing contact sport
Lifting heavy weights
With good care and regular follow-ups, your new elbow can last many years.
Why choose Mount Elizabeth Hospitals?
With modern technology, facilities and a skilled team of specialists and staff, Mount Elizabeth Orchard and Mount Elizabeth Novena offer quality orthopaedic care in Singapore. You can be assured of holistic care that lowers recovery time and improves success rates.
Our bone specialists focus on optimal outcomes that get you back to your active lifestyle. Working as a team across the spectrum of care, we are committed to quality care and outcomes that are customised for your needs and goals.