Known as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow refers to the swelling or tearing of the tendons that make the wrist bend away from the palm and backward.
It is usually caused by repetitive movement of the forearm muscles, which attach to the outside of the elbow.
While some people with this condition do not need surgery because they can manage their symptoms with non-invasive treatments, others have to undergo surgery, typically patients who have a large tear in the tendon from a severe injury or serious damage to the elbow.
Most patients will be good candidates for arthroscopic surgery to treat their tennis elbow, which is a minimally invasive procedure.
If the orthopedic surgeon uses arthroscopy as a treatment approach for tennis elbow, they will first make several tiny incisions around the elbow after the patient receives a combination of general and regional anesthesia. Following the rinsing of the inside of the elbow with saline, the arthroscope is inserted, and the inside of the elbow is examined. This way, the surgeon will be able to treat any problems in the joint, as they will permanently see what is going on inside the joint on a monitor. The capsule on the lateral side of the joint is opened using a radiofrequency probe to expose the injured tendon, which is released from the bone. Finally, the exposed bone is treated by drilling, abrasion, or microfracture.
There are plenty of benefits of undergoing arthroscopic surgery for tennis elbow, including:
However, surgery for tennis elbow implies a series of risks the patient should be aware of, such as bleeding, stiffness, infection, drainage, and nerve injury. They will be made aware of all the risks entailed by the procedure by their orthopedic surgeon. Still, if a very experienced surgeon carries out the surgery, irreversible complications are unlikely to occur.
These sterile dressings placed by the surgeon on the small incisions should be left there for 5 to 7 days. If they fall off, they should be replaced to reduce the risk of infection. The patient will receive a sling to support the arm, but it may be removed to move it when it is time, usually after 2 to 3 days. Outpatient physiotherapy may be recommended but is not always necessary. The patient can resume driving after 5 to 7 days. If the incisions have been closed with sutures, they will be removed after 10 to 14 days.
The patient can return to daily activities in roughly 2 to 6 weeks. Depending on their job and how much physical effort it entails, they can go back to work within 3 to 12 weeks. If they play sports, they will be able to resume this activity in 4 to 6 months.