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Surgery for Tennis Elbow

Surgery for tennis elbow may involve:

  • Cutting (releasing) the tendon camera.gif.
  • Removing inflamed tissue from the tendon.
  • Repairing (reattaching) tendon tears if it is possible to do so without overtightening the tendon.

Surgery may be done using arthroscopy, traditional open surgery, or a combination of the two techniques, depending on the type of problem and the method the doctor prefers to use.

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Surgery can be done with general or regional anesthetic and can require an overnight stay in the hospital.

What To Expect After Surgery

Recovery varies from person to person, usually taking at least 3 to 6 months for a complete recovery.

  • Cigarette smoking slows tendon and wound healing.
  • Recovery depends on the amount of time and effort you put into a rehabilitation program.
  • You may not be able to keep doing the activity that caused your tennis elbow. Or you may have to make some changes to the way you do that activity in the future.

Why It Is Done

You and your doctor may consider surgery if:

  • You still have elbow soreness and pain after more than 6 to 12 months of nonsurgical treatment.
  • Corticosteroid shots have given good short-term pain relief but the pain has returned.
  • You cannot perform daily tasks and activities because of elbow pain.

How Well It Works

Various surgical procedures are used to treat tennis elbow. Some surgical research exists. But there are no published, controlled trials that either strongly support or discourage the use of any one procedure or prove that surgery is better than other treatment.1

Most people are able to return to their previous activities after tennis elbow surgery. Be sure to change any previous technique, equipment, or activity that has been linked to the elbow pain.

Risks

The risks of surgery for tennis elbow include:

  • Slight loss of ability to straighten the arm.
  • Elbow pain that persists or recurs.
  • Infection, blood loss, nerve damage (risks in all surgeries).
  • Anesthesia side effects.

What To Think About

Surgery for tennis elbow is seldom needed because the condition usually improves with tendon rest and nonsurgical treatment.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.

Citations

  1. Buchbinder R, et al. (2011). Surgery for lateral elbow pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Bardana, MD, FRCSC - Orthopedic Surgery, Sports Medicine
Last Revised January 10, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 10, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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