Elbow

UR Medicine offers the widest range of treatment options in Upstate New York. In many cases, we can treat your elbow pain with medication, physical therapy, or injection therapies. In other cases, surgery may be required.

UR Medicine surgeons are all fellowship trained and perform more elbow surgeries than those at any other joint center in the region. Studies have shown that advanced education and the experience that comes with performing more surgeries lead to better patient outcomes. As specialists in joint replacements, minimally invasive arthroscopic surgeries, and the treatment of orthopaedic fractures, we can help you return to a life in motion. If elbow pain is interfering with your everyday life, call (585) 275-5321 for a consultation with a UR Medicine joint surgeon.

Severe elbow pain can keep you from doing your job, make everyday activities difficult, and restrict your ability to enjoy sports and hobbies. Repetitive motion may cause tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), nerve entrapment injury (cubital tunnel syndrome), or golfer's or baseball elbow (medial epicondylitis). A sudden fall may result in elbow instability, with painful clicking, snapping, clucking, or locking of the elbow. In people 50 or older, degeneration of the cartilage and membrane of the joint leads to osteoarthritis.

Our team of elbow replacement surgeons will determine if surgery will put an end to your pain, and how extensive a procedure you need to reach this goal.

Total elbow replacement. This is the right option for people with severe osteoarthritis in an elbow joint. The surgeon removes the damaged bone and cartilage and replaces it with prosthetic parts.

Arthroscopic elbow surgery. In this minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon makes small portal incisions and inserts a tiny camera to find the problem. The surgeon then inserts instruments through the portal to remove debris or make repairs.

 

We break down your journey into manageable steps, which we cover in detail in the surgeon’s office and highlight below:

Your surgeon’s office will provide you with a packet of information and necessary forms to complete. This will include instructions to prepare for your surgery, information about anesthesia and your Presurgical Screening Appointment, as well as your surgical pre-admission form that you will bring to your Presurgical Screening Appointment.

Our scheduler will call you to arrange a Presurgical Screening Appointment, which you will attend approximately 3-4 weeks before your surgery.

The appointment will take about 3 hours, and will include: blood work, urine sample, EKG, X-rays (if requested by your surgeon), health history screening, presurgical education, and MyChart signup.

Bring the following with you to your Presurgical Screening Appointment:

  • Your surgeon’s name, date of surgery, and type of surgery
  • Medication names, dosages, how often and time(s) of day you take them; this includes vitamins and over-the-counter medications
  • Insurance cards, photo ID, health care proxy or living will (if you have one); if you do not have a health care proxy form, we can provide one
  • Your surgical pre-admission form received from your surgeon’s office

Presurgical Screening is located on the main level (Floor 2) of the hospital. Enter the hospital through the main lobby and check in at the information desk.

During a Presurgical physical therapy session, you will learn essential skills to help during the early phases of your recovery. This visit will help you to learn about managing your sling, changing your clothes, as well as caring for your personal hygiene needs during your recovery. Please call (585) 341-9200 or (585) 341-9000 to schedule your Presurgical therapy session.

Weeks before your surgery, get your home ready!

Most patients having a elbow replacement will go home the day after their surgery, making it very important to have a strong support system; someone to take you home and then stay to help for a few days. You will not be allowed to drive yourself home after surgery, so please make sure there will be someone available to drive you home.

Other home preparations:

  • Determine where you will sleep. As most patients find it is most comfortable to sleep in a reclined position after surgery, having access to a recliner or a wedge to use in bed is helpful.
  • Remove throw rugs, electrical cords, and any other obstructions from walkways
  • Install nightlights in hallways and bathrooms
  • Catch up on laundry and housekeeping and prepare meals that can be easily reheated
  • Make arrangements for your pets for 2 weeks after surgery

To speed your recovery, it is important to be familiar with the exercises you will do after surgery. We recommend that you perform each exercise 3-5 times per day for 10-20 repetitions, if able to do so pain-free. If you are in too much pain, simply familiarize yourself with the exercises.

Tendon Gliding Exercises for Hand

  • Keep arm in immobilizer at ALL times until first post-surgical visit 
  • Start with fingers straight, hold for 5 seconds
  • Make a hook fist bending first two joints of hand and keeping large knuckle straight, hold for 5 seconds then return to straight hand
  • Make a full fist bending all three joint of the hand, hold for 5 seconds then return to straight hand
  • Repeat

You’ll receive compassionate care in the comfort of a community hospital, backed by the leading-edge technology and research at UR Medicine. Our entire team is focused on your success, made easier by our dedicated state-of-the-art orthopaedic operating rooms, joint surgery recovery unit, and rehabilitation gym.

All UR Medicine joint replacement surgeries are performed in Highland’s dedicated, state-of-the-art orthopaedic operating rooms at the Evarts Joint Center.

On the day of your surgery, you’ll go to the Highland Surgery Center. The elapsed time from operating room to leaving the post-anesthesia care unit is usually about 4 hours.

After surgery, you will go to your room in the Evarts Joint Center, again dedicated to our Orthopaedic patients.

Your companions can track your progress and will be notified when you have arrived in your room.

A social worker will work with you to discuss your discharge, and your nurse will review your discharge instructions with you.

Some patients need more care and a skilled nursing facility (a nursing home that provides rehab services) may be recommended. Your insurance plan will dictate whether a skilled nursing facility is an option for you. You should discuss your coverage with your insurance provider.

You Make the Difference! You will play a huge role in the success of your surgery and your recovery. It’s important that you be proactive and participate in your physical therapy program. The more committed and enthusiastic you are, the quicker your improvement will be.

During your first few weeks at home, you will adapt what you’ve learned at the hospital to your own setting. A few key reminders for when you first return home:

  • You will be required to wear your sling at all times with the exception of showering, changing clothing, or working on rehab exercises.
  • You must protect yourself from falling and keep your new joint in safe positions while you heal.
  • You should plan for someone to stay with you for several days when you first go home.
  • You should not drive until your doctor or physical therapist says it is okay to do so. Usually you may begin driving once you are no longer required to wear the sling and are no longer taking narcotic pain medication.

It is normal to experience discomfort when doing your exercises and you may need to take pain medication prior to doing your physical therapy exercises. It is important that you perform your assigned exercises exactly as instructed by your physical therapist and with the appropriate number of repetitions.

Here the are answers to questions we have heard most often about elbow surgery. Please feel free to contact us to get your specific questions answered.

Your time in surgery is about 2-3 hours, but the actual elapsed time from operating room to the post- anesthesia care unit (PACU), where you will recover from anesthesia, is usually about 3-4 hours.

The vast majority of our patients will go directly home the day after surgery.

The sling helps prevent damage to your elbow from the stretching of the muscles or tendons. How long you need to wear the sling depends on your specific type of surgery and how well your body is healing.

Typically the modern replacement joints we use will last at least 15-20 years. Many factors influence the joint’s life, including your activity level and overall health.


To review a longer list of questions and answers about your surgery and your Highland experience, visit our Frequently Asked Questions Page.