Elbow joints of several people may get affected by arthritis & can become highly painful, swollen & strenuous to move. Often this lack of motion is encouraged by joint surfaces not moving sleekly on each other or by tightening of flexible ligaments & tendons around elbow joint. Joints may become extremely painful to allow patients to move it. Elbow replacement surgery, also called elbow arthroplasty can dramatically treat these issues caused by arthritis condition of the elbow. It is being performed more widely in aging adults to replace their elbow joints damaged by fractures. Reports state that artificial elbow has proven to be successful in more than 90 percent of patients who have undergone elbow replacement surgery. Patients who need longer-lasting & durable treatment can opt for this highly effective surgical intervention.
What is Elbow Replacement Surgery?
Elbow replacement surgery, also called as elbow arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure used to replace the worn out bones of elbow joints with artificial joints of either metal or plastic. Elbow is a hinge joint which comprises of the following three bones.
- Upper Arm Bone – It is known as Humerus.
- Forearm Bone on Pinky Finger Side – It is generally referred to as Ulna.
- Forearm Bone on Thumb Side – It is known as Radius.
Surfaces of bones where they unite to form elbow joint are enclosed with articular cartilage, a sleek substance that guards bones & allows them to move effortlessly. A fine, steady tissue called the synovial membrane envelopes all other remaining surfaces in elbow joint. In a strong & healthy elbow, this membrane makes little quantity of fluid that lubricates cartilage & removes almost any friction as patients rotate & bend their arm. Ligaments, muscles & tendons hold the elbow joint together. When bones of the elbow joint become damaged due to either fracture or arthritis & medications fail to provide relief from critical pain then elbow replacement surgery is the best alternative to get rid of this harsh condition.
Elbow pain & disability can be caused due to several reasons which may lead patients & orthopedic surgeons to consider elbow replacement surgery.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis –This type of arthritis results in thickening of synovial membrane which surrounds elbow joint. It can deteriorate cartilage that gradually causes pain & stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most usual form of a group of disorders known as inflammatory arthritis.
- Osteoarthritis – Generally, it occurs in patients 50 years of age & above. When cartilage loosens & wears away, bones start to rub against each other. This condition usually results in a more painful & inflexible elbow joint.
- Post-Traumatic Arthritis – This condition can follow an elbow injury & results in painful elbow joint.
- Severe Fractures – A resolute fracture of bones that make up the elbow is one of the most common reason patients undergo elbow replacement surgery. When the elbow is shattered, it may be very troublesome for a surgeon to plant pieces of bones back in proper place. Blood supply to bone pieces can also be disrupted. In such cases, surgeons may suggest an elbow replacement surgery to patients.
- Instability – Instability happens when ligaments holding elbow joint together are deteriorated & fail to work properly. Elbow is reclined to dislocation. Chronic instability is most probably caused by severe injury.
Elder patients with fragile bones are most at risk for elbow fractures. Few fractures do not heal well & may require an elbow replacement surgery to address these issues.
Some serious elbow injuries & chronic conditions may indicate the need for shoulder replacement surgery. Few of them are discussed below.
- Arthritis Condition – Rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis where other conservative treatments have failed to work entirely.
- Bone Damage – Badly broken bone in lower or upper arm around elbow.
- Torn Tissues – Torn or badly damaged tissues in elbow.
- Tumor – Tumor in the elbow area.
- Previously Failed Surgery – Poor outcome from prior elbow surgery.
Diagnosing a severe elbow problem will begin with a physical evaluation & assessment of patient’s health history. During this process, surgeons may ask certain questions as mentioned below.
- Tell me about the symptoms which you are experiencing?
- When did you begin to notice these symptoms?
- Are symptoms worse after physical activity or rest?
- Can you tell me which activities make them worse or better?
- Do you recollect having any injury or illness around the time these symptoms started?
- Are you encountering symptoms in any other joints besides the elbow?
- Does anyone in your family have arthritis or similar elbow issues?
- Do you think any other medical issues could be causing this condition?
During physical assessment surgeons will look at & touch elbows of patients & any other joints that patients may have problems with. Surgeons will be looking for parts that have pain, tenderness or swelling, as well as forewarning that elbow joint may be deteriorated. Reckoning on conclusion of history & examinations, surgeons may order lab tests & imaging tests like MRI & X-rays to help confirm diagnosis. Imaging tests can allow surgeons to clearly see intrinsic structures of elbows.
- X-Ray (Radiography) – X-ray is a simple test in which an electromagnetic radiation is passed through elbow to build a 2-D picture of bones creating the elbow joint. Surgeons can easily evaluate the underlying condition based upon it.
- CT Scans – They may be used to determine fractures of elbow that do not show up on X-ray test. Soft tissues, such as cartilage, muscles & ligaments can be seen more clearly than conservative X-rays, so they are more helpful for diagnosing elbow issues, including soft tissue injuries & arthritis.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – This technique uses a magnet linked to a computer to form a picture of intrinsic structures in black, white & shades of gray. Because an MRI test shows soft tissues as well as bones, it is specifically supportive for diagnosing elbow injuries.
- Bone Scan – This method can be beneficial to view stress fractures caused by repeated trauma. Bone scan procedure involves injecting a little volume of radioactive material into blood. This radioactive material accumulates in bones, especially in areas of new bone growth where fractures are recovering, enabling orthopedic surgeons to see those regions with a scanner.
An elbow replacement surgery must be recommended if pain of patient’s elbow seems to be increasing despite taking medications, essential injections & physiotherapy. It’s always better to ask orthopedic surgeons when arthritis affects someone’s quality of life. There are some following popularly practiced types of elbow replacement surgeries.
- Hemiarthroplasty – Hemiarthroplasty is a method where humeral head is replaced with an artificial ball that extends into the shaft area of the elbow joint bone. This ball is usually used for severe fractures and in treating various types of arthritis.
- Reverse Anatomy Arthroplasty – In this type of surgery, reverse fitting of synthetic components takes place. This means from the ball to shoulder blade & the socket to the upper arm bone. This technique is mostly suggested for patients who are suffering from harsh arthritis with poor tendon coverage on joint.
- Shoulder Resurfacing – Shoulder resurfacing is a modified version of hemiarthroplasty. In this technique, instead of humeral head elimination, an artificial ball on a stem is preferred & a metal cap is placed over the ball.
Appropriate technique will be utilized by orthopedic surgeons in order to successfully relieve symptoms of patients.
Orthopedic surgeons & patients should make a mutual decision to proceed with elbow replacement surgery. Patients need to completely understand the procedure as much as possible. In case patients have any concerns or questions, they should talk to the orthopedic surgeon.
- Health Assessment – Once patients decide to undergo elbow replacement surgery, they need to take several essential steps. Orthopedic surgeons may advise complete physical evaluation by a regular doctor. This assessment helps ensure that the patient is in best possible state of health to undergo this operation.
- Physical Therapy – Patients may also need to spend some time with the physical therapist who will be administering rehabilitation following elbow replacement surgery. This allows the patient to get a head start on healing. A physical therapist will check pain levels, capability to perform physical activities & strength of elbow of the patient.
- Home Planning – Making slight changes in home before elbow replacement surgery can make patient’s recovery phase smoother. During initial weeks after surgery, it will be tough to reach high cupboards & shelves. In such a situation, patients should invite someone to stay with them for a few weeks.
Patients will obviously have many doubts regarding their elbow replacement surgery. Patients can take help of the following list to clearly understand feasible outcomes following elbow replacement surgery.
- How many days will I be admitted to hospital for my elbow replacement surgery?
- What are the complications that may occur with this type of surgery?
- What is my expected healing time?
- Do I have to follow physical therapy? If so, how often & for how much time?
- Will I need full-time care following surgery?
- How will I shower after my elbow replacement surgery?
- In which outdoor sports may I take part after my surgery?
- How much weight will I be able to lift?
- When is physical intercourse possible after elbow replacement surgery?
- Do I need to take antibiotics for my dental care?
- Which technique will be used for my surgery?
- How long will my replaced elbow last?
- What can I do to avoid complications after my surgery?
- What can I do in order to keep my elbow replacement functioning smoothly as long as possible?
Apart from these, patients should ask everything they have in mind regarding elbow replacement surgery.
Elbow replacement surgery is highly beneficial for patients. It is performed in the following stages.
- General Anesthesia – Elbow replacement surgeries are mostly performed under general anesthesia. General anesthesia puts patient to sleep. In some cases, elbow replacement surgery is carried out with regional anesthesia, which numbs only nerves of arm. In cases surgeons use regional anesthesia, they may also suggest some medications to aid patients drift off to sleep, so that patients are not aware of elbow replacement surgery.
- Incision – After anesthesia, orthopedic surgeons make an incision in back of elbow joint. This incision is made on patients back because mostly nerves & blood vessels are inside the elbow. Incisions from back-side aid prevent severe damage to nerves & blood vessels.
- Component Fitting – Ligaments & tendons are moved out of way. Appropriate care must be taken to move ulnar nerve that runs along elbow to hand. Once elbow joint is disclosed, first step is to eliminate surfaces of the joint. This is normally performed with a surgical saw. Ulnar component is then fitted into bone temporarily to see the fit. When surgeons fit the ulnar component, they then repeat the same procedure on humerus.
- Closing Incision – Bone is then cemented properly & surgeons sew up the incision at the end. Patients will then be awakened after some time & taken to the recovery room.
Orthopedic surgeons & their medical team will give several doses of antibiotics to patients for preventing infection.Patients are allowed to eat solid food & get out of bed the day after surgery. Patients will most likely stay at hospital for 1 to 2 days after surgery. After completion of elbow replacement surgery, patients will feel discomfort & uneasy, but orthopedic surgeons & their efficient staff will provide necessary medications to make them feel comfortable. A cautious & convenient healing strategy is critical to success of an elbow replacement surgery. Patients will be taught some light exercises for their wrist & hand to avoid stiffness & help to manage swelling. Patients will be guided to do gentle exercises as the wound heals. Positive attitude & obeying guidelines of orthopedic surgeons is the key to recovering successfully from an elbow replacement surgery.
There are few risks & complications related to elbow replacement surgery. Some of them are listed below.
- Allergic reaction to the artificial elbow joint
- Allergic reactions to medicines
- Blood clots
- Excessive bleeding
- Breathing problems
- Blood vessel damage
- Bone breakage
- Dislocation of artificial joint
- Serious infection
- Loosening of elbow joint over time
- Severe nerve damages during elbow replacement surgery
Most of patients undergoing elbow replacement surgery have personally experienced an enriched quality of life after undergoing this joint replacement procedure. They have observed less pain, enhanced strength, better motion & function of the elbow joint. Patients should expect to perform all routine activities of daily life, such as cooking dinner, getting a plate out of a cabinet, styling hair, lifting a water jug, basic hygiene & dressing properly. Patients should talk to doctors about activities they may want to avert, such as horseback riding, playing tennis as well as heavy weight lifting. These activities escalate the risk of metal parts breaking or loosening or may lead to breaking of bone as well. While traveling on airplanes, patients must be prepared for an extra security check. There are chances that the metal implants will set off metal detectors at airports during security check-in. Elbow replacement surgery provides the following enumerated benefits which make this procedure quite successful for patients.
- Minimized pain or even absolute relief from harsh pain in elbow
- Prevents further damage & reduces the risk of a disability in patients
- Greater flexibility & motion of the elbow joint
- Patients can return to normal routine. They may efficiently drive a car or even participate in different sports as well
Results of elbow replacement surgery will be durable & long-lasting if patients take proper care & maintain a healthy lifestyle. Patients must also visit orthopedic surgeons at regular intervals to maintain a healthy status of the elbow following surgery.
Medical Tourism in India for Efficient Elbow Replacement Surgery
India is one of the top-five most-visited medical tourism destinations in the world & has sculpted a niche for itself as a healthcare destination for best orthopedic surgeries.
Key Strengths of Indian Medical Tourism Sector
- Best healthcare system in the world
- Conveniently accessible from other developed countries like the UK & the United States
- Superior quality orthopedic surgeries that are up to 60 percent cheaper than UK & the United States
- Numerous high-quality orthopedic hospitals & clinics with international accreditation
- Highly qualified orthopedic surgeons with great international experience
- State-of-the-art infrastructure & latest technology
- Full-fledged medical tourism infrastructure
Affordable Elbow Replacement Surgery with Travcure Medical Tourism
Travcure Medical Tourism is one of the fastest growing & trustworthy healthcare providers in India. Travcure can guide international patients to choose an appropriate, skilled & competent orthopedic surgeon for performing elbow replacement surgery. Compassionate healthcare experts at Travcure will also help overseas patients with visa & other necessary requirements such as appointments with best orthopedic surgeons, second medical opinions & accommodation as per patient requirements to make healthcare journey to India extremely comfortable. On request of global patients, Travcure will also venture a refreshing holiday package in order to heal their mind & body following elbow replacement surgery.
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