Arthritis in the elbow is not as common as in other joints, but it can be painful and sometimes impact function. Elbow arthritis is treated by Dr. Peter G. Fitzgibbons, MD at The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics: Maryland Orthopedic Specialists Division, who performed fellowship-training in hand, wrist, and elbow surgery through the Harvard Hand & Upper Extremity Fellowship based at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. With office locations in both Germantown and Bethesda, Maryland, he and a team of orthopaedists, hand therapists, and physical therapists offer a comprehensive range of services covering the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis in the elbow.
Arthritis is pain and swelling in a joint, usually caused by loss of the cartilage that lines the joint.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type, and while we don’t entirely understand the cause, it seems to
be at least partly an inherited problem. Other types of arthritis can be “inflammatory”, the most
common being rheumatoid arthritis. These are usually caused by an auto-immune problem that can
often be treated with medications.
Elbow arthritis often has no clear cause. When there is no clear cause, it is likely an inherited problem.
Other times it is post-traumatic (caused by an old injury), or inflammatory (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis).
Arthritis in the elbow is usually managed for a long time with a combination of activity modification,
medications, and occasionally cortisone injections. Elbow arthritis can be difficult to treat because, like
other joints, immobilization in a splint can help relieve symptoms, but makes using that arm almost
impossible. Surgery can sometimes be used to clean out the elbow joint, removing bone spurs and
other debris. In some patients, this can help improve symptoms. More involved surgeries on the elbow,
including elbow replacement or the removal of bone and placement of a soft tissue spacer, need to be
discussed carefully with your surgeon. These surgeries usually involve significant permanent restrictions
on the use of the elbow.
Surgery for elbow arthritis can be outpatient (i.e. patients do not spend the night in the hospital) or may
involve a short hospital stay, and is done with general anesthesia (i.e. patients are completely asleep).
Dr. Fitzgibbons performs these procedures either at the Massachusetts Avenue Surgery Center or Shady