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Surgery for tennis elbow

3-minute read

This page will give you information about surgery for tennis 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 tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is caused by wear and tear of the tendons on the outside of your elbow, causing pain, stiffness and, sometimes, weakness.

What are the benefits of surgery?

9 in 10 people heal within a year without surgery. The main benefit of surgery is to get relief from the symptoms more quickly.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Tennis elbow heals over time.

Physiotherapy can help you to recover more quickly.

Some people may also benefit from wearing a splint.

Illustration showing the tendons of a right elbow.
The tendons of a right elbow.

Injections of steroids, blood, or hyaluronic acid can sometimes improve symptoms.

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation usually takes about 30 minutes.

Your surgeon will make one or more cuts on the outside of your elbow. They will remove the damaged part of the tendon and treat any other problems with the joint.

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • unsightly scarring

Specific complications

  • bleeding into the joint
  • infection in your elbow joint
  • severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of your arm and hand
  • 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.

Summary

Tennis elbow is caused by wear and tear of the tendons on the outside of your elbow. 9 in 10 people heal within a year without any treatment. The main benefit of surgery is to get relief from the symptoms more quickly.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Last reviewed: September 2018

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