Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ


When I have surgery next week for my chronic tennis elbow, what can I expect in the way of results?


Studies show that surgery to treat chronic pain and loss of function from tennis elbow is usually very successful. It's always recommended that the patient try a good program of rehab first before having surgery.

But sometimes even quality rehabilitation doesn't change the patient's symptoms. Surgery to release the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) is the procedure done most often. This reduces the force transmitted from the muscle through the tendon to the bone.

Some surgeons remove the damaged tissue called tendinosis. They may restore the normal anatomical relationship between the extensor carpi radialis longus (ECRL) and the extensor digitorum communis (EDC). A single hole drilled into the bone along the lateral (outside) of the elbow helps bring an increased blood supply to the area. This step speeds up the healing process.

The expected results include pain relief and restoration of motion and function. You may be able to return to your previous level of athletic and recreational sports activities. Improved grip strength and ability to perform all daily activities without pain is another expected outcome.

Sometimes patients report less than perfect results. They may have difficulty fastening the top button on a shirt. They may have trouble with other similar activities like turning a key, combing the hair, or using uensils to eat. Or they may report pain with strenuous activities. Grip strength may be less than normal. Patient satisfaction may be decreased because of these (or other) limitations. 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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