Arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) involves inserting a camera into the elbow and operating though small incisions (portals). An elbow arthroscopy will usually require four or five small incisions around the elbow. The procedure will usually be performed under a general anaesthetic with a local anaesthetic block. Short procedures may be performed as a day case, but most patients will need to stay in hospital overnight.
Arthroscopy is an effective treatment for removing loose bodies, releasing stiffness due to soft tissue contractures and treating early arthritis. Risks of this type of surgery are low, though there is a small risk of nerve injury.
Following most arthroscopic operations patients can move the elbow immediately as much as comfort allows, and the small wounds will need to be covered with a dressing until the stiches are removed at about 10 days. Depending on the precise operation writing, dressing and using a keyboard should be possible within a couple of days and driving should be possible at around three weeks. Almost certainly physiotherapy will be required to maximise the benefit of surgery.
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