Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

I'm going to have arthroscopic surgery to treat a problem with chronic tennis elbow. Everything sounds like it will be quick and easy. Are there any drawbacks to this treatment?

Answer:

Arthroscopic surgery for lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) is considered minimally invasive (MI). This means a very small incision is made. The surgeon is able to minimize the amount of damage to the soft tissues while still repairing the problem.

But there are some potential problems with this approach. In order to use the arthroscopic technique, portals or openings are made to pass the scope through the joint. Although it is minimally invasive, the joint is still entered for a problem that occurs outide the joint.

There is a risk that nerve tissue or blood vessels will be damaged unintentionally with this procedure. And some experts question whether all the damage present (all that needs repair) is seen clearly with such a small incision. An open incision may alter the soft tissue structures but the surgeon has clear access and a clear view of what's going on inside.

Other complications may depend on the exact type of surgery performed. If the tendon is released, instability and loss of grip strength can occur. Some patients report worse pain than before the procedure. Others report no relief of painful symptoms present before the operation. Johnathan H. Dunn, MD, et al. Ten- to 14-Year Follow-Up of the Nirschl Surgical Technique for Lateral Epicondylitis. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. February 2008. Vol. 36. No. 2. Pp. 261-266.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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