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Elbow Debridement and Surgical Repair

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/15/2010

If you suffer from arthritis or tennis elbow, elbow debridement and surgical repair may be required. Learn more about the procedures and possible complications, as well as what to expect with recovery.

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    Elbow Debridement

    Elbow debridement and surgical repair may be in order for a patient experiencing conditions such as arthritis or tennis elbow.

    Elbow debridement for arthritis is a surgical procedure that utilizes arthroscopy to smooth surfaces that come into contact with each other. This can help reduce stiffness and that ‘catching’ sensation patients experience when moving the joint.

    For tennis elbow, the surgical procedure can involve removing (by cutting) or debriding the section of tendon that is unhealthy.

    An open debridement allows a direct view of the area being treated. Dr. Hill Hastings II states that the cost can be far less for open lateral debridement versus an arthroscopic debridement of the elbow. This is because the open procedure does not have the added expense of the arthroscopic equipment (minus the basic suture kits).

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    Complications and Risks

    For tennis elbow surgical debridement, one possible complication is posterolateral instability. A non-operative treatment for this complication is immobilization of the forearm (in pronation), with the elbow contained in a hinged brace.

    In arthroscopic debridement of the elbow, the possible complications and risks include nerve damage, temporary nerve palsy and prolonged drainage. Pronation of the forearm during the procedure can help reduce the risk of nerve damage.

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    For tennis elbow, the recovery time following surgical debridement typically ranges from two to three months, with Coast Surgery also stating that about 85 percent of patients become pain-free.

    Open lateral debridement of tennis elbow is stated by Dr. Hill Hastings II as having a slower recovery in the first three weeks than other types of debridement, but normalizing after that period of time, so patients can experience a similar recovery. He also cites a complete time of approximately three to six months for recovery for either open or arthroscopic forms of debridement of the elbow in tennis elbow cases.

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    Elbow debridement and surgical repair are good options for those patients with long-term pain and mobility issues. Sometimes the pain and mobility issues will clear up on their own within six months to one year after the initial start of the problem, so waiting until past that time period is recommended before pursuing surgical options unless the condition is a serious hindrance in work or daily life.

    Injections are also used in some cases, primarily for short-term help and relief.

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    Elbow Surgery: Elbow Debridement. Coast Surgery.

    Tennis Elbow – Lateral Epicondylitis. Wheeless’ Textbook of Orthopaedics. Cliff Wheeless, III, MD. Duke Orthopaedics. Last Updated June 5, 2010.

    Elbow Arthroscopy. Wheeless’ Textbook of Orthopaedics. Cliff Wheeless, III, MD. Duke Orthopaedics. Last Updated January 19, 2009.

    Open Treatment for Lateral Tennis Elbow Good for Certain Indications. Hill Hastings, II, MD. Sports Medicine. Orthopedics Today. February 1, 2009.