Elbow arthroscopy is the use of a keyhole, minimally invasive surgical technique to treat injury and disorders of the elbow. This technique is technically demanding, and only a few surgeons in Singapore are formally trained to do this procedure safely. The advantage of elbow arthroscopy is the avoidance of a formal open surgery. Not all elbow conditions can be treated using this keyhole technique.
Suitable conditions include loose body causing locking of the elbow; cartilage injury of the elbow, sports related injuries around the elbow, tennis and golfer’s elbow not responding to non-operative treatment, elbow stiffness, mild arthritis of the elbow, elbow impingement and spurs, and infection/inflammation of the elbow. Advanced stiffness and advanced arthritis will still require open surgery.
Symptoms and signs
Patients who may benefit from elbow arthroscopy include those with elbow pain, stiffness, locking or clicking, and instability.
You surgeon in charge will examine your elbow thoroughly. Depending on the clinical findings, plain X-rays, MRI and occasionally a CT scan of your elbow will be performed to determine your need for surgery, and if elbow arthroscopy can treat your elbow condition.
Not all elbow injuries or disorders require surgery. Many can be treated without surgery, using simple options like physiotherapy and local injections.
Surgery is often reserved for those who fail non-operative treatment.
This is often done as a day surgery, and general anaesthesia. The surgeon in charge will make 3 to 4 key-hole incisions to gain access to your elbow joint. The arthroscope will be inserted through one of these ‘key-holes’ to confirm the injury or problem in the elbow. The additional ‘key-holes’ are used to insert specialized and pen-like instruments into the elbow to address the problem.
The surgery typically takes half hour to 2 hours, depending on the elbow condition. This surgery is safe and efficacious if performed by a surgeon verse in this technique.
Immediately after the surgery, you will be given pain –killers to control your pain. Most patients hardly rely on painkillers after this key-hole minimally invasive technique. Early but cautious post-operative rehabilitation and mobilization is crucial for elbow surgery as the elbow has a propensity to stiffen up. Your surgeon in charge will tell you how much movement is allowed at different phase of your recovery.
Most patient recover from their condition between 6 weeks to 3 months after their surgery. Most patients can expect to return to deskbound jobs as early as one week after surgery.
Bruising and swelling around the elbow is common after elbow arthroscopy, and is not a cause for concern.