This page will give you information about an arthroscopy of the elbow. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
You can also download and print a PDF version of this factsheet, with space for your own questions or notes.
What is an arthroscopy of your elbow?
An arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) involves examining the inside your elbow using a telescope inserted through small cuts on your skin. Your surgeon should be able to treat some problems using special surgical instruments.
What are the benefits of surgery?
The aim is to confirm exactly what the problem is and for many people the problem can be treated at the same time.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
What does the operation involve?
The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic. The operation usually takes about 30 minutes.
Your surgeon will usually make about 2 to 4 small cuts around the joint. They will insert a small telescope through one of the cuts so they can examine the joint. They will insert surgical instruments through the other cuts if they need to treat any problems with the joint.
What complications can happen?
- infection of the surgical site (wound)
- unsightly scarring
- bleeding into the joint
- infection in your elbow joint
- severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of your arm and hand (complex regional pain syndrome)
- damage to nerves
- damage to the radial nerve
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the same day.
The physiotherapist may give you exercises and advice to help you to recover from the operation. It can take a few weeks to get back to normal activities.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
Most people have a major improvement but it takes time for pain to lessen and movement to increase. Symptoms often come back with time.
An arthroscopy of your elbow allows your surgeon to diagnose and treat problems affecting the joint, without the need for a large cut on your skin. This may reduce the amount of pain you feel and speed up your recovery.
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Last reviewed: September 2018