Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ


For years I've had rheumatoid arthritis in my hands. I've managed okay. Now it's moved to my elbows. The pain is much worse than anything I ever had in my hands. Is there such a thing as an elbow transplant? I'm desperate.


There isn't exactly an elbow transplant, but an elbow replacement is possible. Most orthopedic surgeons who do elbow joint replacements will consider you for this operation if you meet certain requirements:

  • You've tried at least six months of nonoperative treatment such as drugs or physical or occupational therapy. Some patients also try acupuncture, nutritional supplements, and other alternative treatments.
  • Pain does not respond to any nonoperative treatment.
  • Pain limits motion and function.
  • There is a fixed flexion contracture (you can't straighten your elbow)
  • There is nerve damage.

    Not all surgeons perform elbow joint replacements. Start by talking with your rheumatologist or other primary care physician. If you have already tried other forms of treatment, ask for a referral to an orthopedic surgeon who does this kind of surgery.

    Christopher P. Little, FRCS (TR & ORTH), et al. Outcomes of Total Elbow Arthroplasty for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Comparative Study of Three Implants. In The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. November 2005. Vol. 87-A. No. 11. Pp. 2439-2447.

    *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.
    All content provided by eORTHOPOD® is a registered trademark of Medical Multimedia Group, L.L.C.. Content is the sole property of Medical Multimedia Group, LLC and used herein by permission.
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