Tennis Elbow Surgery

Georgia Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow

In this article, we’ll discuss the intricacies of tennis elbow surgery and explore the treatment options available. We’ll walk you through what happens before, during, and after the procedure, offering insights into what to expect as a patient. 

If you’re ready to take the next step toward relief, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow today. Our expert team is dedicated to providing personalized care and restoring your quality of life. Contact our office in Marietta or Atlanta, Georgia now.

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What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow (medically known as lateral epicondylitis) is a common condition that causes pain and discomfort in the outer part of the elbow. Despite its name, tennis elbow can affect anyone—not just tennis players. The condition occurs when the tendons in your elbow are overworked, leading to inflammation and tiny tears in the tendons.

Your elbow is a complex joint made up of bones, muscles, and tendons. These tendons connect the muscles in your forearm to the bone on the outside of your elbow, called the lateral epicondyle. When these tendons undergo repetitive stress or strain, they can become damaged, resulting in the characteristic tennis elbow pain.

According to “Miller’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine,” a renowned medical resource, tennis elbow typically affects the extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon, which is responsible for extending the wrist. However, other tendons in the area can also be involved.

Activities that involve repetitive motion of the wrist and arm—such as playing tennis (hence the name), painting, or using tools—can lead to the development of tennis elbow. When these motions are repeated over time, the tendons can become irritated and inflamed, causing pain and discomfort.

The pain associated with tennis elbow often worsens with gripping, lifting, or squeezing objects, as these actions place additional strain on the injured tendon. In some cases, the pain may radiate down the forearm or up to the upper arm bone (humerus). If left untreated, tennis elbow pain can persist and interfere with daily activities.

At What Point Does Tennis Elbow Need Surgery?

Tennis elbow surgery becomes an option when other methods fail to effectively treat tennis elbow and relieve pain. Typically, doctors recommend surgery only when conservative treatments like rest, physical therapy, medication, and other nonsurgical treatments haven’t provided sufficient relief.

When an injured tendon in the elbow fails to heal or continues to cause significant pain and limitations in daily activities despite non-surgical interventions, surgery may be considered. The decision to proceed with surgery is usually based on the severity of the condition and the impact it has on the individual’s quality of life.

It’s essential to discuss the potential risks and benefits of surgery with your doctor and explore all available treatment options before deciding on surgery. 

Before the Tennis Elbow Procedure

Some things that a patient can do before a tennis elbow procedure include:

  1. Consult with a healthcare provider: Before proceeding with surgery, patients should consult with their healthcare provider, such as an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in treating tennis elbow. The doctor will assess the severity of the condition, discuss treatment options, and provide recommendations based on individual needs.
  2. Adjust sports practice schedule: If the patient participates in sports or activities that exacerbate tennis elbow symptoms, it may be necessary to modify or temporarily suspend these activities before surgery. Adjusting the sports practice schedule can help prevent further damage to the elbow tendons and optimize the outcome of surgery.
  3. Follow preoperative instructions: Patients will receive specific instructions from their healthcare provider regarding preoperative preparations. This may include fasting for a certain period before surgery, abstaining from certain medications that can increase bleeding risk, and arranging for transportation to and from the surgical facility.
  4. Arrange postoperative care: Patients should arrange for someone to assist them with postoperative care, as they may experience temporary limitations in mobility and self-care activities following surgery. This may involve arranging for transportation, help with household chores, and assistance with dressing changes or medication management.

What Happens During Tennis Elbow Surgery?

During tennis elbow surgery, the surgeon aims to repair the injured tendon in the lateral (outer) part of the elbow to treat tennis elbow and alleviate pain. The procedure can be performed using different techniques, including open surgery.

Here’s what typically happens during tennis elbow surgery:

  1. Anesthesia: Before the surgery begins, the patient will receive anesthesia to ensure they are comfortable and pain-free throughout the procedure. This may involve local anesthesia to numb the area around the elbow or general anesthesia to induce temporary unconsciousness.
  2. Incision: In open surgery, the surgeon makes a small incision on the outer side of the elbow to access the injured tendon. This allows the surgeon to directly visualize and repair the damaged tissue.
  3. Tendon repair: Once the tendon is exposed, the surgeon may remove damaged or degenerated tissue and repair the tendon using various techniques. This may involve suturing the torn tendon or removing unhealthy tissue to promote healing.
  4. Closure: After repairing the tendon, the surgeon closes the incision with sutures or surgical staples. The wound is then covered with a sterile dressing to protect it as it heals.
  5. Recovery: Tennis elbow surgery is typically performed as an outpatient surgery, meaning the patient can go home the same day. 

After a Tennis Elbow Procedure

After a tennis elbow procedure, patients can expect a period of recovery and rehabilitation. This typically involves the following:

  1. Rest and recovery: Patients may experience some discomfort, swelling, and stiffness in the elbow region after surgery. It’s essential to follow postoperative instructions provided by the surgeon, including resting the elbow and avoiding activities that may strain the repaired tendon.
  2. Physical therapy: Rehabilitation often includes physical therapy sessions aimed at restoring strength, flexibility, and function to the elbow. Therapists will prescribe specific exercises and stretches to gradually improve mobility and reduce stiffness.
  3. Wearing elbow splints: In some cases, patients may be instructed to wear elbow splints or braces to support and protect the healing tendon. These devices help immobilize the elbow and prevent excessive strain during the initial stages of recovery.
  4. Follow-up appointments: Patients will have follow-up appointments with their surgeon to monitor healing progress and address any concerns or complications. The surgeon may adjust the treatment plan or recommend additional interventions based on individual needs.

Overall, with proper care and rehabilitation, patients can usually expect to gradually regain elbow function and return to their normal activities following tennis elbow surgery.

Schedule an Appointment With Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow Today!

If you’re experiencing symptoms of tennis elbow and seeking expert care, consider scheduling an appointment with us at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow. Our experienced team specializes in diagnosing and treating a wide range of upper extremity conditions, including tennis elbow, to help you get back to doing the activities you love. Take the first step towards pain relief and mobility restoration by contacting our office in Marietta or Atlanta, Georgia today!

Medically reviewed by

Randall Alexander, MD

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Plastic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon