Surgical Information – Procedures

Arthroscopic Debridement of the Elbow

What is arthroscopic debridement of the elbow?

Arthroscopic debridement of the elbow is a minimally invasive procedure to clear damaged tissue from the elbow joint. In this technique, the surgeon makes several small incisions around the joint and uses a small video camera (called an arthroscope) to see inside. Tiny instruments are used to remove loose cartilage, file down bone spurs and repair any damage. Arthroscopic surgery has many benefits to patients, including smaller incisions, less muscle and tissue trauma, less post-operative pain and a faster recovery.

Arthroscopic debridement is used for diagnostic purposes as well as for treatment of many elbow conditions including tennis elbow, golf elbow, little league elbow, adhesions, loose bodies and osteoarthritis. Arthroscopic surgery of the elbow is challenging because of the joint's anatomy. It's important you consult a qualified orthopedic surgeon specially trained in the technique for best results.


The elbow is made up of the humerus (upper arm bone), the ulna (the large forearm bone) and the radius (the small forearm bone). Two main ligaments – the ulnar collateral ligament and the lateral collateral ligament – hold the bones of the elbow together. Muscles and tendons support the joint and allow you to bend and straighten your arm.

When is surgery recommended?

If you have a painful elbow condition that does not respond to conservative treatment such as rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications or corticosteroid injections, arthroscopic debridement may be an option for you.Because the procedure allows the surgeon to see inside the joint, it is also used for diagnostic purposes to assess damage and determine the correct course of treatment.

What is the recovery time?

Arthroscopic debridement is an outpatient procedure and patients go home the same day. Physical therapy is often recommended post-operatively to stretch out the tendons and ligaments in the elbow and restore strength and range of motion. Most people return to light work within several days. If your job requires heavy lifting or throwing, you may be out for several weeks. Full recovery and return to pre-injury athletic activities varies based on your condition, its severity and your overall health.

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