HealthSheets™


Elbow Arthroscopy: Conditions Treated

Arthroscopy is used to find and treat many types of elbow problems. These include loose bodies, bone spurs, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), and synovitis.

Loose bodies

Loose bodies are bone or cartilage fragments that have broken loose inside the joint. Left in place, they can cause pain. Your elbow may catch, or become hard to bend and straighten. Loose bodies can be removed with arthroscopy. This will help restore normal, pain-free arm movement.

Side view of elbow joint showing instrument removing loose body.
A loose body is removed from the elbow joint

Bone spurs

Bone spurs (growths) in a joint can cause the bones to pinch one another (impinge). These growths can cause pain and restrict movement. The ulna is the most common site for bone spurs in the elbow. To treat your problem, the surgeon will remove the spurs and smooth the bone surface.

Side view of elbow joint showing burr removing bone spur.
A bone spur is removed from the elbow joint.

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) 

Inside a joint, a piece of bone can become loose because of an injury to its blood supply. It can happen from trauma or without any obvious cause. OCD can cause pain and swelling. The surgeon can remove the bone or secure it in place. Open surgery may also be needed. If the bone piece is removed, your surgeon may try to stimulate healing by drilling or by putting holes into the remaining exposed bone. 

Synovitis

If the lining of the joint (synovium) is pinched, it may become inflamed. This can cause pain and swelling in the elbow. The surgeon can remove the pinched synovium and relieve symptoms.

Side view of elbow joint showing screw holding loose cartilage in place.
OCD is treated by securing the affected piece of bone in place or removing it.

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