Tennis elbow is caused by doing the same forceful arm movements over and over. It creates small, painful tears in the tendons in your elbow. This injury can be caused by tennis, other racquet sports, and activities such as turning a wrench, prolonged typing, or chopping with a knife. The outside (lateral) elbow tendon is most commonly injured. The inside (medial) and backside (posterior) tendons can also be affected.
Surgery to repair tennis elbow is an outpatient surgery. This means you will not stay in the hospital overnight. You will be given medicine (sedative) to help you relax and make you sleepy. Numbing medicine (anesthesia) is given in your arm. This blocks pain during your surgery. You may be awake or asleep with general anesthesia during the surgery.
If you have open surgery, your surgeon will make one cut (incision) over your injured tendon. The unhealthy part of the tendon is scraped away. The surgeon may repair the tendon using something called a suture anchor. Or, it may be stitched to other tendons. When the surgery is over, the cut is closed with stitches.
Sometimes, tennis elbow surgery is done using an arthroscope. This is a thin tube with a tiny camera and light on the end. Before surgery, you will get the same medicines as in open surgery to make you relax and to block pain.
The surgeon makes one or two small cuts, and inserts the scope. The scope is attached to a video monitor. This helps your surgeon see inside the elbow area. The surgeon scrapes away the unhealthy part of the tendon.
Why the Procedure is Performed
Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general are:
Reactions to medicines or breathing problems
Bleeding, blood clots, or infection
Risks of tennis elbow surgery are:
Loss of strength in your forearm
Decreased range of motion in your elbow
Need for long-term physical therapy
Injury to nerves or blood vessels
Scar that is sore when you touch it
Need for more surgery
Before the Procedure
- Tell the surgeon about all the medicines you take, including those bought without a prescription. This includes herbs, supplements, and vitamins.
- Follow instructions about stopping medicines that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve).
- Ask your doctor which medicines you should still take on the day of your surgery.
- Stop smoking, if you smoke. Smoking can slow healing. Ask your health care provider for help.
- Tell your surgeon if you have a cold, flu, fever, or other sickness before your surgery.
- Follow instructions about not eating or drinking anything before surgery.
- Arrive at the surgery center when your surgeon or nurse told you to. Be sure to arrive on time.
After the Procedure
After the surgery:
- Your elbow and arm will likely have a thick bandage or a splint.
- You can go home when effects of the sedative wear off.
- Follow instructions on how to care for your wound and arm at home. This includes taking medicine to ease pain from the surgery.
- You should begin moving your arm gently, as recommended by your surgeon.
Tennis elbow surgery relieves pain for most people. Many people are able to return to sports and other activities that use the elbow within 4 to 6 months. Keeping up with recommended exercise helps ensure the problem will not return.