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Elbow Ligament & Tendon Replacement

Ligaments are fibrous tissues that connect bones. The ligaments that stabilize the elbow joint are the ulnar ligament and radial collateral ligament, both of which are fan shaped. The ulnar collateral ligament is located on the inside of the elbow joint. It prevents excessive outward rotation. The radial collateral ligament is on the outside of the joint; it prevents excessive inward rotation.

What Are Main Problems Affecting the Elbow?

Three main problems that affect the elbow are instability injuries due to:

  • Ligament disruption
  • Elbow Arthritis
  • Elbow Tendinitis

Instability injuries can occur with repetitive throwing or in a sudden fall. Elbow ligament replacement procedures are designed to restore the correct biomechanical function of the ligaments. The alignment of the ligament reconstruction is critical; these cases require a surgical team experienced in dealing with elbow injuries. The orthopedic surgeons at HOI are highly trained in surgeries of the elbow, including leading edge surgeries that are less invasive. These newer procedures are designed to do as little damage as possible to surrounding muscles and tissues.

Surgical Treatment Options for Elbow Instability

Surgical treatment options include ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction. This surgery involves replacing the ulnar collateral ligament with a tendon obtained elsewhere in the body. Common sites include the forearm, knee and hamstring. Your surgeon will harvest the tendon and loop it through the various holes that have been drilled in the elbow, in a series of figure-eight patterns. Over time, the transplanted tendon “ligamentizes,” which basically means it learns to become a ligament.

Knowing What to Expect During the Procedure

If you and your doctor decide upon elbow surgery, you will be admitted as an inpatient. Your procedure will most likely take between one and two hours. Anesthesia will usually be a nerve block of the arm. Following surgery, your arm will be placed in a splint for several days to immobilize the elbow and allow the wound to heal. During this time gentle wrist, hand and shoulder exercises are performed. Our physical therapy team is orthopedic specialized; they will work closely with your surgeon to establish a personalized rehabilitation plan. After the splint is removed, a range of motion brace will be utilized to gradually allow you to regain full range of motion in the elbow joint. About 6 weeks after your surgery, elbow strengthening exercises may begin.

For patients dedicated to physical therapy the chances of complete recovery are at above 90%.

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