Elbow replacements have been highly successful for years. Many people who have suffered from elbow pain and arthritis have experienced relief through total elbow replacement and restored motion in their elbow. And because medicine is always developing new materials and procedures, the results continue to get better. The complication rate following total elbow replacement is low. Serious complications, such as elbow-joint infection, occur in as few as 5.0% of patients.1 Major medical complications, such as heart attack or stroke, occur even less frequently. Of course, chronic illnesses may increase the potential for complications.
Every surgical procedure has some risks and benefits. Your individual results will depend on your personal circumstances, and recovery takes time. While there can be no guarantee of success, benefits can include pain relief and return of limited use of the elbow.
Each of the following reactions or complications can occur during and after surgery and may require medical attention, such as further surgery and implant removal:
Infection is a risk with any surgical procedure. According to a recent study, as few as 5.0% of patients get an infection in the first two years.1 When infection occurs after total elbow replacement, it is most commonly caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream during dental procedures or from urinary tract, skin, or fingernail infections. Although uncommon, when these complications occur, they can delay full recovery.
For the first two years after your elbow replacement, you may take preventive antibiotics before dental or surgical procedures that could allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Generally, talk to your orthopedist and your dentist to see if you still need preventive antibiotics before other procedures.
The bone next to the elbow implant may break down (called osteolysis) because of your body's reaction to particles that may be caused by:
Implant fracture has been reported following total elbow replacement. This is typically caused by:
To minimize the possibility for implant fracture, it is important to follow medical instructions and to avoid excessive or inappropriate activity.
Given the risks, your doctor may decide that elbow replacement surgery is not appropriate if among others: