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Zimmer, Inc.

How Is Elbow Surgery Performed?

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Elbow replacement surgery is the same idea as having worn parts taken out and new parts installed in their place. In elbow surgery, the damaged portions of the elbow bones are removed, and the elbow is replaced with implants. Here's what you can expect on a typical day of elbow surgery:

  • A small tube (intravenous line) is inserted into your unaffected arm. This tube is used to administer antibiotics and other medication during your surgery.
  • You're taken to the operating room and given anesthesia.
  • Anesthesia takes effect and your elbow is scrubbed and sterilized with a special solution.
  • Your elbow replacement surgery will likely take between one and three hours and begins with an incision over your elbow to expose the joint.
  • Bones are fully visible to the surgeon, and special precision guides and instruments are used to remove the damaged surfaces and cut and shape the ends of the humerus (upper arm bone) and ulna (forearm bone) to accept the implants.
  • The implants are inserted and fixed into place with a special kind of epoxy cement for bones.
  • The two parts of the hinge are then brought together and secured with a locking pin.
  • When the surgeon is satisfied with the fit and function, the incision is closed and covered with dressings.
  • A sterile bandage is applied.
  • Your arm is put in a splint and may also be wrapped in an ice pack to help control pain and swelling.
  • You're taken to the recovery room where you will be closely monitored.
  • Anesthesia wears off, and you slowly regain consciousness. A nurse is with you and may encourage you to cough or breathe deeply to help clear your lungs. You're given pain medication.
  • You are fully awake and are taken to your hospital room.
  • Your elbow remains swollen and tender for a few days.

Risks of elbow replacement surgery