If a disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or an injury has harmed your elbow, your doctor may recommend surgery to replace the joint, so you have less pain and can move better.
During elbow replacement, a surgeon replaces your elbow with an artificial joint made from two implants that attach to the bones in your arm. A metal and plastic hinge joins the implants together.
The procedure is similar to hip and knee replacements.
Types of elbow replacement
In some cases, you may need a replacement of just one portion of the joint. For example, if only the head of one of your forearm bones (radius) is damaged, it can be replaced with an artificial head.
If the entire joint needs to be replaced, the ends of the bones that come together in the elbow will be removed. Bones are hard tubes that contain a soft center. The long, slender ends of the artificial joint are inserted into the softer central part of the bones.
There are two main types of prosthetic devices available:
- Linked. This type of prosthesis acts somewhat like a loose hinge because all the parts of the replacement joint are connected. This provides good joint stability, but the stresses of movement can sometimes result in the prosthesis working itself loose from where it’s inserted into the arm bones.
- Unlinked. This type of device comes in two separate pieces that aren’t connected to each other. This design depends on the surrounding ligaments to help hold the joint together, which can make it more prone to dislocation.