Elbow Surgery


This procedure is done in the operating room under a General Anesthetic. A lighted telescopic lens call an "Arthroscope" is used to directly look inside the elbow joint. The procedure is done to examine the joint and do minor surgeries ( i.e. cleaning joint surfaces, removing pieces of bone, tissue, screws/staples from previous surgeries). A few puncture wounds are made in the elbow area in order to place the arthroscope and instruments.

The procedure takes between 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours. You are then taken to the recovery room and after a determined period of time, you are discharged home. Your arm may appear pink in colour. This is because it has been washed with a pink tinged antiseptic in the operating room.


Your elbow will be swollen and somewhat uncomfortable for 24-48 hours after your operation. This is normal and partly due to the fact that some fluid is injected into the elbow during the procedure. Apply covered ice packs over the elbow for 10-20 minutes every 2-3 hours as needed to reduce swelling and pain. Do not put ice in direct
contact with the skin. A plastic bag with ice cubes or a bag of frozen peas (do not eat after use as an ice pack) placed in a pillow case or towel works well.

Elevate the elbow and hand 6-12 inches above your heart whenever possible (use pillows for support). If you have
swelling in your arm or hand, we recommend elevating the arm on pillows and pumping the hand (opening and closing your hand repeatedly) 3 times a day until the swelling goes away. This is best done when lying flat.

You have had arthroscopic/open surgery. Keep bandage dry for ----- days or until you see the doctor. If there is any oozing from the incision. put on a new bandage. When applying a new bandage, do not touch the side that goes against the wound. Bandages can be purchased at any drug store.

You may shower in ----- days, if the incision is dry and healing. Do not immerse wound in water for 2 weeks
(i.e. hot-tubs. baths, and pools).

Do not remove the steri-strips (tape) that are over the wound. If they fall off, replace with band-aids until your follow-up appointment. If the elbow has an elastic tensor bandage, it should be removed for 10-15 minutes and re-wrapped twice a day. If the bandage feels too tight or you feel numbness or tingling in your hand. loosen the bandage. Keep the tensor bandage on until you follow-up appointment.

Using a Sling
You may go home with a sling on your arm. The purpose of the sling is to protect your arm and to take the weight off of your elbow. It is supported in the position least stressful to your elbow. It should remain on for the night after surgery. You should begin to wean yourself off the sling the day after surgery. You should no longer require a sling 5-7 days after your surgery. lf you receive a "block" freezing for pain control and you go home with numbness and no muscle control of your arm, keep your arm protected with the sling until the numbness goes away and you are able to control your arm.

Take the pain medications as ordered by your surgeon. Covered icepacks may also decrease pain. You may supplement your pain control with anti-inflammatories (i.e. ibuprofen) even if taking narcotics (eg. Tylenol #3). This will decrease your narcotic requirement and their side effects (eg. dizziness, nausea, and constipation). You may take painkiller at ----- a.m./p.m.

Recovery after surgery is gradual. It is normal to feel weak and to tire easily during your first week or two at home. Alternate your periods of rest and activity. To improve the movement and circulation to your wrist and hand, we encourage you to move them frequently. Avoid stressing the elbow joint. Do not carry heavy objects or do heavy physical activities until okayed by your doctor. Plans for returning to work are dependent on the nature of your job as well as your general health and recovery. Discuss this with your doctor.

Exercising the Elbow
Spend 15 minutes 3 times a day exercising your elbow. Putting ice packs on your elbow before and
after your exercises may reduce pain with activity. Sit in a comfortable position with the sling off.