Evolution of Technology

Total Elbow Arthroplasty

There are different types of elbow replacements. The components can be made of different materials and come in different sizes. There are two main types of elbow prosthetic devices: linked and unlinked. In linked prosthetics, all parts of the replacement joint are connected. This acts like a hinge and provides good joint stability. An unlinked prosthesis comes in two separate pieces that aren’t connected to each other. This type relies on the surrounding ligaments to hold the joint together. There are pros/cons to each type and is best decided with your surgeon depending on the condition of the elbow and type of arthritis.

Evolution of Procedure

Arthroplasty

Treatment for elbow arthritis include both non-surgical and surgical options and depends on the severity of the arthritis. Mild arthritis is treated with non-operative techniques, such as physical therapy, oral anti-inflammatory medications, or even steroid injections. If these measures fail, surgery can be done either arthroscopically or open to clean out the elbow joint to remove bone spurs and any degenerative cartilage. For more severe forms of arthritis, total elbow arthroplasty is a great option.

Total elbow arthroplasty is where the damaged or diseased parts of the elbow, specifically the humerus and ulna, are replaced with artificial components. To reach the elbow joint, the surgeon makes an incision usually at the back elbow and then moves the muscles aside to get access to the bone. Scar tissues and bone spurs get removed and then the ends of the humerus and ulna are prepared so that the artificial components can be placed onto them. The components usually have stems attached that are inserted into the bone and kept in place with bone cement. The new artificial elbow joint is made up of a metal and plastic hinge.

Evolution of Diagnosis

Elbow Arthritis

Elbow arthritis can be caused by a number of conditions. It is most commonly caused by “wear and tear”, or osteoarthritis. This usually develops over a long time, up to several decades. It could also be from a condition similar to rheumatoid arthritis where an inflammatory process can destroy cartilage and bone inside the elbow. Lastly, it can be caused by trauma, known as post-traumatic arthritis.

Patients with elbow arthritis most commonly present with pain. Other hallmarks include stiffness, or limitation of motion of the elbow. There may also be an inability to straighten the elbow all the way. There can also be clicking and catching or occasionally even numbness or tingling down from the elbow into the hand.

Elbow arthritis can be treated in a variety of ways and depends on the severity of the arthritis. Mild arthritis treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and occasional cortisone injections. More severe arthritis can be treated with surgery to clean out of the elbow joint by removing bone spurs and degenerative cartilage. When someone has extreme elbow arthritis and other measures have failed, an elbow replacement (also called a total elbow arthroplasty) can be considered.