Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

Well, I made it through the first 90-days after an elbow replacement surgery. They say that's the biggest time period for serious problems. Now that I'm over that hurdle, what should I be aware of next? I would hate to be blindsided in the next 90-days by something I didn't know could happen.

Answer:

It's always good to be on the look out for potential problems. Once recognized, early intervention and treatment can minimize the effects of something that might otherwise be a serious problem. In the case of joint replacements (or any major orthopedic surgery for that matter), the first 90-days are crucial for problems like blood clots and skin, joint, or wound infection. Any of these problems can require hospital readmission. By nature of the thin soft tissues around the elbow, the rate of infection tends to be a problem no matter how careful the surgeon is. Most of these problems occur early and mean the patient has to go back to the hospital for further care. Fortunately, deaths (usually from blood clots) in the first three months following an elbow joint replacement procedure are reported at a low rate of 0.62 per cent. But blood clots can develop later, so careful observation of any new or disturbing signs and symptoms is important. There are other complications that can be disabling such as nerve injuries, implant loosening, and fractures. Amputation and conversion to joint fusion are among the more serious problems later on. On the positive side, 92 per cent of elbow implants do just fine and are still working quite well years after being put in. Elbow joint replacement is still a fairly uncommon procedure. Surgeons are keeping an eye on their own rate of complications as well as reading the literature for any information that can help them improve results. There's plenty of room for further studies to fill in and round out what we know about short- and long-term results of total elbow arthroplasty (TEA). The conclusion of studies so far is that complications are higher than expected or desired. Patient results may be improved and costs decreased with further studies to find out why rates of failure, revision, and reoperation are so high. A closer look at patient characteristics may also be helpful in reducing mortality and rates of other serious short- and long-term complications. Lucie Krenek, MD, et al. Complication and Revision Rates Following Total Elbow Arthroplasty. In Journal of Hand Surgery. January 2011. Vol. 36A. No. 1. Pp. 68-73.

*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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