Elbow arthritis includes osteoarthritis, post traumatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory arthritis and post infective. These conditions present with stiffness, pain and limited function due to lack of cartilage and possibly lack of elbow stability. The eventual stiffness and pain may be treated with options including activity modification, arthroscopic debridement, arthroplasty.
Often those with elbow arthritis are men, between 25-75 whom are/were labourers, elite sports or heavy loads and often the dominant arm. Elbow pain, stiffness, nerve pains, catching and locking are common.
Often the diagnosis is through a history and examination. Here the doctor will likely see that you have a reduced range of motion, pain at the extents of movement. Assess the nerves, specifically the ulnar nerve is key to examination.
Investigations for elbow arthritis include, but not limited to plain elbow series Xrays and a CT scan in later stages or an MRI in the early stage, post traumatic or instability as predisposing cause.
The management of elbow arthritis is tailored to the individual.
It is often tolerated relatively well, and simple activity modifications can be enough.
pain relief, paracetamol, NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatories or steroid injections are possible treatment options.
Gentle self directed physiotherapy aimed at maintaining the range of motion, not aiming to increase the range as may not increase significantly
surgical intervention through arthroscopic debridement of osteophytes and capsule releases can improve the range of motion, but will not reverse the disease.
Elbow arthroplasty is an option, radial head, distal humerus or total elbow arthroplasty are surgical options to be considered after exhausting non operative options.
The aim is to restore elbow function and decrease pain. The specific outcomes and risks such as infection, nerve injury, re-operation, fracture will be discussed with Dr Drynan at your consultation.