Arthroscopic Debridement of the Elbow

Arthroscopic Debridement of the Elbow

There are several injuries or conditions that can lead to an arthroscopic debridement of the elbow. This procedure removes dead or dying tissue, foreign debris, and other irritants that may cause pain or other symptoms. A doctor might recommend this procedure as it is minimally invasive and can treat a number of symptoms. This procedure is relatively simple and may be the treatment for you. 

Causes for Arthroscopic Debridement of the Elbow

There are several conditions that may lead a doctor to recommend arthroscopic debridement of the elbow. Many of these are common conditions: 

  • Tennis Elbow: This condition refers to swollen or torn tendons within the elbow due to repetitive motion in the forearm muscles. This often occurs from playing sports like tennis. 
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis may cause degeneration and inflammation of the bones that make up the elbow, while rheumatoid arthritis may cause inflammation of the tissues surrounding the joint. 
  • Loose Foreign Bodies: Sometimes due to injury or other conditions, loose bone chips or tissue may end up in the elbow joint, impeding movement and causing pain or grinding in the joint. 
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans: A common gymnastics injury that comes from damage to the humerus bone. 


The symptoms that may lead a doctor to order an arthroscopic debridement of the elbow include pain and stiffness in the elbow, buildup of scar tissue, inflammation and swelling, and loss of range of motion. These affect everyday motion and can be very difficult and frustrating to deal with. These symptoms tend to worsen over time, so it is important to visit with a doctor as soon as possible to avoid more serious symptoms developing. 

Arthroscopic Debridement of the Elbow

This procedure is minimally invasive and can be a preferable alternative to other surgeries, particularly in less serious cases. There is also a shorter healing period after the procedure, but a patient will still need aftercare. 


The procedure begins with placing the patient under general anesthesia, or using local anesthesia to numb the elbow. Then the doctor uses the arthroscope to look inside the elbow joint. An arthroscope is a small camera, or scope, that can navigate through the body. This scope also has attachments to perform surgical incisions. The surgeon will make a small incision and put the scope inside the elbow joint to observe the condition and see what may need to be done. Then they may use other incisions and surgical tools to remove any damaged tissue, foreign bodies, bone spurs or other materials. Fluid is often injected to help expand the joint, making it more visible to the scope. Once the damaged tissue and other materials have been removed, the surgeon will close all incisions and the elbow is bandaged. Most patients can return home that same day, but may be kept overnight for observation. 

Recovery after Arthroscopic Debridement of the Elbow

Once the procedure is complete, the patient will need to spend several weeks recovering. This means avoiding any heavy lifting or other strenuous activities, and taking appropriate medications. Pain and swelling may take place for the first few weeks after the procedure, but it should reduce over time. Elevating the area will help prevent swelling and helps relieve pain. The doctor will also prescribe a series of stretches to help the elbow remain flexible and pliable after the procedure. Then, the patient will likely need physical therapy to ensure that the elbow regains strength and normal functionality. 

Options for Elbow Pain

While arthroscopic debridement of the elbow is often a beneficial and highly effective treatment, there are other options to consider for elbow and other joint pains. Your treatment plan should reflect what is best for you and your body. Visit us at Orthopaedic Associates of Riverside, and we can help you make a treatment plan that will help you get the care you need! 

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