When Does an Elbow Injury Require Surgery?

While no one particularly likes the thought of surgery, there are times when it can bring you much-needed relief and restore function far more quickly than letting nature run its course. Figuring out when this is the case is the tricky part.

Thankfully, orthopedic specialists like J. Michael Bennett, MD, understand what it takes to get you back to functioning normally after an elbow injury. Patients in Houston and Sugar Land, Texas, know they can trust the capable hands of Dr. Bennett, who has extensive experience using the latest techniques, allowing them to wave goodbye to elbow pain once and for all.

Take a moment to consider whether your elbow injury requires surgery.

Elbow 101

Your elbow is a fairly complicated joint, the point where three bones come together — the ulna, the humerus, and the radius — to provide you with an incredibly wide, and precise, range of motion in your lower arms. Surrounding and connecting these bones are a host of soft tissues, namely your cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and muscles, which all work together to allow your arm to twist, extend, and bend.

Elbow problems usually occur after an acute injury or as a result of repetitive movements or degenerative diseases. The most common causes of elbow problems include:

If you think about how often you use your elbow during the course of a normal day, never mind taxing it through sports, you begin to realize that this joint undergoes a fair amount of stress, leaving it vulnerable to a number of different problems.

Am I surgical?

Whether you’re dealing with an acute elbow injury or a chronic and painful problem, the only way to know for sure whether you may benefit from surgery is to undergo a full evaluation here at our practice. As a sports medicine specialist and former physician for many collegiate and professional sports teams, Dr. Bennett has a unique understanding of the elbow and what’s needed to restore optimal function.

To start, Dr. Bennett uses advanced diagnostic imaging to identify the source of the problem and to assess whether you may need surgery. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there are some general rules of thumb when it comes to deciding upon surgery.

For example, If your problem is ongoing and hasn’t responded to more conservative treatments, surgery may be just what you need to put an end to your discomfort and limitations. Along the same lines, if you’ve developed scar tissue or you have loose cartilage or bone fragments, we recommend a simple arthroscopic surgery to remove or release the tissue that’s causing you pain and limiting your movements.

If you have an acute injury that involves a complex fracture or a ligament or tendon tear, Dr. Bennett often recommends surgery to repair the area the right way to avoid a scenario where your elbow heals badly, leading to bigger problems down the road.

Rest assured, Dr. Bennett considers the entire picture when he recommends a treatment plan, taking into account your lifestyle, your goals, and the extent of the problem.

Not your father’s surgery

Should surgery provide the best solution, Dr. Bennett uses the latest techniques available, including arthroscopy and ultrasound for tendon and ligament repair and reconstruction. With arthroscopy, Dr. Bennett makes only very small incisions through which he threads tiny instruments and a camera in order to perform the work without having to open the area up completely. This minimally invasive technique reduces your risks and speeds up your recovery.

Dr. Bennett also performs Tommy John surgery, named for a former major league baseball pitcher who was able to return to baseball after having the surgery. Medically described as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, the procedure involves harvesting a tendon from elsewhere in your body (or using a donor tendon) and creating a new UCL.

Tapping the power of ultrasound, Dr. Bennett offers the Tenex Health TX™ procedure to eliminate damaged tissue with precision sonography, causing minimal harm to the surrounding tissue.

While elbow surgery provides a great solution, Dr. Bennett also uses biologics and platelet-rich plasma as excellent nonsurgical options for elbow pain and tendinopathy.

The bottom line is that if you’re plagued with elbow problems, we offer a number of solutions, both surgical and nonsurgical, that will help you regain full, and pain-free, use of your elbow. Please give us a call if you’d like to learn more or fill out the online form on this website to request an appointment.

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