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Elbow

Cartilage Repair

Cartilage provides bones with a smooth coating that allows for cushioning of the joint and smooth movement. The effects of time, overuse and conditions such as arthritis can damage cartilage and leave the bones unprotected. Cartilage damage often results in stiffness, limited range of motion, and pain and swelling within the joint, which can significantly affect everyday activities that utilize the motion of the elbow.

There are several different methods of cartilage repair performed by Dr. Chao, which may include multiplying samples of healthy cartilage outside the body before implanting it back into the damaged area, or transplanting grafts of healthy cartilage to the damaged area to relieve pain and restore range of motion. Most patients experience effective results from cartilage repair.

Nerve Injury

Elbow nerve injury involves an inflammation of the ulnar nerve, which controls the muscles in the forearm and hand. This nerve allows us to feel the sense of touch, texture and temperature throughout most of our hand and forearm. When this nerve is damaged, patients may experience pain, numbness, weakness and restricted thumb movement. This condition affects men more often than women and can occur as a result of trauma, anesthesia, malnutrition or tumors.

Treatment of ulnar nerve damage depends on the severity of the condition, but may include medication, exercises, splints and sometimes surgery to remove a cyst or correct damage from an injury. Dr. Chao will discuss your options with you, as well as home remedies you can take to help treat symptoms of ulnar nerve neuropathy.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a common condition in which the overuse of the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle causes pain to radiate down the outside of the elbow region through the forearm. In most cases, this can be cured through non-invasive measures such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or specialized physical therapy. However, in severe or non-responsive cases, surgical treatment may be needed in the form of tennis elbow release.

The goal of this procedure is to provide pain relief, usually accomplished by “releasing” the swollen ECRB tendon. This is done by debriding the degenerative and painful sections, thus creating more room for the healthy parts to function. This can be accomplished through either open surgery or using arthroscopic techniques. The recovery from surgery is approximately 12 weeks for arthroscopic surgery and potentially longer for open surgery. Light rehabilitation exercises should begin once the doctor approves, normally after two to four weeks.

UCL Injuries (Tommy John Procedure)

The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is vital to maintaining elbow stability and function. However, this ligament is a common injury associated with several different sports, especially throwing sports such as baseball, javelin, and football. Although this is usually a chronic injury, the UCL can also be ruptured by a fall on an outstretched hand or similar trauma.

Surgery is not normally indicated for most patients, but may be necessary for athletes in order to help them fully recover. The ligament is reconstructed using another ligament from the patient's own body (autograft), most likely from the forearm, hamstring, or knee.

The elbow is then immobilized for one to two weeks, after which shoulder range of motion exercises can be performed. Most athletes do not return to play for a year or more. However, most patients eventually regain full strength and function after a lengthy recovery, with some athletes playing more successfully than they did before surgery.

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