Tennis Elbow Surgery

Tennis elbow, also called Lateral Epicondylitis, is a painful condition occurring from repeated muscle contractions in the forearm that leads to inflammation and micro-tears in the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle. The lateral epicondyle is the bony prominence that is felt on the outside of the elbow.

Signs and symptoms of tennis elbow can include the following:

  • Elbow pain that gradually worsens
  • Pain to the outside of the elbow that radiates to the forearm and wrist with grasping objects
  • Weak grip
  • Painful grip
  • Pain is exacerbated in the elbow when the wrist is bent back

Tennis Elbow is usually caused by overuse of the forearm muscles but may also be caused by direct trauma such as with a fall, car accident, or work injury.

Tennis elbow is commonly seen in tennis players, hence the name, especially when poor technique is used when hitting the ball with a backhand stroke. Other common causes include any activity that requires repetitive motion of the forearm such as painting, hammering, typing, raking, weaving, gardening, lifting heavy objects and playing musical instruments.

Tennis Elbow should be evaluated by an orthopaedic specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your physician will perform the following:

  • Medical History
  • Physical Examination

Diagnostic Studies may include:

X-rays: Your physician may order an x-ray to rule out a fracture or arthritis as the cause of your pain.

Your physician will likely recommend non-surgical treatment options to treat the tennis elbow symptoms. These may include:

  • Limit use and rest the arm from activities that worsen symptoms.
  • Splints or braces may be ordered to decrease stress on the injured tissues
  • Ice packs to the elbow for swelling
  • Avoid activities that tend to bring on the symptoms and increase stress on the tendons
  • Anti-inflammatory medications and/or steroid injections to treat pain and swelling may be ordered.
  • Occupational Therapy or home exercises may be ordered for eccentric stretching exercises to the forearm

If non-surgical treatment options fail to resolve the condition and symptoms persist for 6 -12 months, your surgeon may recommend you undergo a surgical procedure to treat Tennis Elbow called Lateral Epicondyle debridement and repair surgery. Surgery is considered a last resort for this condition and only 1 in 10 patients require surgical intervention. The surgical success rate for relieving Tennis Elbow pain is 85-95%.

The goal of Tennis Elbow surgery is to remove the diseased tissue around the outer elbow, improve blood supply to the area, and alleviate the patient’s symptoms. This surgery is usually performed in an operating room under regional or general anesthesia on an outpatient basis as day surgery.

Your surgeon makes an incision over the outside of the elbow. The surgeon then trims the partially torn tendon and then reattaches it to the bone. Any scar tissue present will be removed as well as any bone spurs.

After the surgery is completed, the incision is closed by suturing. After surgery your surgeon will give you guidelines to follow depending on the type of repair performed and the surgeon’s preference.

The majority of patients suffer no complications following tennis elbow surgery; however, complications can occur following elbow surgery and include:

  • Infection
  • Nerve damage causing numbness, tingling, burning or loss of feeling in the back of the hand and forearm area
  • Wrist weakness with extension
  • Symptoms recur or do not improve