Elbow arthroscopy is a minimally invasive technique used by orthopaedic surgeons to diagnose and treat a range of conditions affecting the joint.
As in other joints, arthroscopy of the elbow involves the use of fiberoptics and a tiny camera that is inserted through small incisions or portals. Magnified pictures from the camera are projected onto a television monitor in the operating suite. When the procedure is employed to treat an injured or diseased joint, the orthopaedic surgeon inserts miniaturized surgical instruments through an additional portal.
In contrast to traditional surgery, using large incisions to open the joint, there is no injury to surrounding soft tissues with arthroscopy. Moreover, the technique allows the surgeon to view the elbow joint from multiple angles, allowing for a more thorough evaluation.
Before performing an elbow arthroscopy, the orthopaedic surgeon obtains an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and X-rays of the joint. Respectively, these images provide information about the soft tissues surrounding the bones—cartilage, tendons and ligaments—and the bones themselves which may have irregularities including spurs (extra growths that can cause pain and inflammation). Placement of the portals may also be guided by these findings.
Elbow arthroscopy is used as a diagnostic tool for pain, stiffness, and loss of motion in the joint. Some of the more common diagnoses include:
Reviewed: 12/7/2009 Published: 10/21/2003
Summary prepared by Nancy Novick