The elbow is a complex joint that allows for a wide range of motion in the arm, making it susceptible to various injuries. While many elbow injuries can be effectively treated with conservative measures like rest, physical therapy, and medications, there are instances where surgery becomes necessary to achieve optimal recovery. The following are ten types of elbow injuries that may require orthopedic surgery for joint repair.
Severe elbow complex fractures, such as comminuted fractures (broken bone in multiple pieces) or fractures involving the joint surface, often require surgical repair to realign the bones properly. Surgeons may use plates, screws, or pins to stabilize the fracture. Dislocation and radial head fractures may also require surgery for repair.
2. Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow
In cases of severe tendinosis or tendon tears associated with these overuse injuries, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgeons can repair the damaged tendons and remove any damaged tissue.
3. Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Injury
UCL injuries are common in athletes, especially baseball players. Severe UCL tears may require Tommy John surgery, a procedure that involves replacing the damaged ligament with a graft from another part of the body or a donor. This surgery is essential for professional athletes and high-level throwers.
Advanced osteoarthritis of the elbow can lead to significant pain and loss of function. In such cases, a surgeon may recommend elbow joint surgery to remove loose bodies, bone spurs or other issues causing arthritis-related pain.
5. Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome, caused by compression of the ulnar nerve, can result in pain, tingling, and weakness in the arm. Surgery may involve transposing the ulnar nerve to relieve pressure and improve symptoms.
6. Elbow Instability
In cases of chronic elbow instability due to ligament damage, surgeons may perform ligament reconstruction surgery. This procedure involves repairing or reconstructing the damaged ligaments to restore stability to the joint.
Chronic bursitis in the elbow can lead to pain and inflammation. When conservative treatments fail to provide relief, surgical removal of the inflamed bursa sac may be necessary.
8. Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)
OCD is a condition where a piece of cartilage and underlying bone become detached from the joint surface. Surgical options may include the removal of the loose fragment or, in some cases, repairing the damaged area.
9. Radial Tunnel Syndrome
Radial tunnel syndrome, characterized by pressure on the radial nerve, can cause pain and weakness. Surgical decompression may be required to relieve nerve compression.
10. Fracture Nonunion
In cases where a fractured bone fails to heal properly (nonunion), surgery may be necessary to realign the bone, add bone grafts, or stabilize the area with hardware.
It is important to note that not all cases of elbow injury require surgery. Many conditions can be successfully managed with conservative treatments such as rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and immobilization. The decision to pursue surgery depends on the severity of the injury, the patient’s overall health, and the goals of treatment.
If you suspect an elbow injury or experience persistent pain, it is crucial to seek prompt medical evaluation by an orthopedic specialist. Our orthopedic specialists at Ortho Sport & Spine Physicians can evaluate your elbow condition, recommend appropriate diagnostic tests, and discuss treatment options, including the possibility of surgery, to help you achieve the best possible outcome and regain optimal function in your elbow. Call a facility near you to schedule your elbow treatment consultation.
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