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The elbow is a hinge joint that connects the humerus bone of the upper arm to the radius and ulna bones of the lower arm through a complicated system of muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Elbow injuries come in many forms and can unfavorably affect people of all ages and lifestyles. To read more about elbow contions, click here.

Elbow

At OrthoNorcal Orthopedic Specialists, our specialty-trained and experienced elbow surgeons are recognized as leaders in the diagnosis and treatment of elbow injuries and conditions. Frequent surgical procedures our elbow surgeons perform include cubital tunnel release (for cubital tunnel syndrome), elbow replacement, total elbow arthroplasty, medial epicondyletcomy (golfer’s elbow), lateral epicondylitis debridement (tennis elbow), elbow ligament reconstruction, ulnar nerve transposition, and osteochondritis dissecans.

  • Elbow Arthritis

    Although the elbows are not weight-bearing joints, they are considered to be most important for the functioning of the upper limbs.

  • Tennis Elbow

    Tennis elbow is a common name for the elbow condition lateral epicondylitis. It is an overuse injury that causes inflammation and microtears of the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle.

  • Golfer's Elbow

    Golfer’s elbow, also called medial epicondylitis, is a painful condition occurring from repeated muscle contractions in the forearm that leads to inflammation and microtears in the tendons that attach to the medial epicondyle.

  • Elbow Sprain

    An elbow sprain is an injury to the soft tissues of the elbow. It is caused due to stretching or tearing (partial or full) of the ligaments that support the elbow joint.

  • Elbow Pain

    Damage to any of the structures that make up the elbow joint can cause elbow pain.

  • Elbow Injuries

    The elbow is a complex joint formed by the articulation of three bones – the humerus, radius, and ulna. Articular cartilage lines the articulating regions of the humerus, radius, and ulna.

  • Little League Elbow

    Little league elbow, also called medial apophysitis, is an overuse condition that occurs when there is overstress or injury to the inside portion of the elbow.

  • Elbow Fractures

    Elbow fractures may occur from trauma, resulting from various reasons: a fall on an outstretched arm, a direct blow to the elbow or an abnormal twist to the joint beyond its functional limit.

  • Distal Humerus Fractures of the Elbow

    Injury in the distal humerus can cause impairment in the function of the elbow joint. A distal humerus fracture is a rare condition that occurs when there is a break in the lower end of the humerus.

  • Elbow Fractures in Children

    Fractures are more common in children due to their physical activities as well as their bone properties. An elbow fracture most commonly occurs when your child falls on an outstretched arm.

  • Bicep Tendon Tear at the Elbow

    A biceps tear can be complete or partial. Partial biceps tendon tears will not completely break the tendon while complete tendon tears will break the tendon into two parts.

  • Elbow Trauma

    The elbow is a complex joint of the upper limb, formed by the articulation of the long bone of the upper arm or humerus, and the two bones of the forearm - the radius and ulna.

  • Elbow Impingement

    Elbow impingement is a medical condition characterized by compression and injury of soft tissue structures, such as cartilage, at the back of the elbow or within the elbow joint.

  • Elbow (Olecranon) Bursitis

    Inflammation of the olecranon bursa leads to a condition called olecranon bursitis.

  • Elbow Contracture

    Elbow contracture refers to a stiff elbow with a limited range of motion. It is a common complication following elbow surgery, fractures, dislocations, and burns.

  • Elbow Dislocation

    The arm in the human body is made up of three bones that join to form a hinge joint called the elbow. The upper arm bone or humerus connects from the shoulder to the elbow to form the top of the hinge joint.

  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome (Ulnar Nerve Entrapment)

    When the elbow is bent, the ulnar nerve can stretch and catch on the bony bump. When the ulnar nerve is compressed or entrapped, the nerve can tear and become inflamed, leading to cubital tunnel syndrome.

  • Osteochondritis Dissecans of Elbow

    Osteochondritis dissecans is a joint condition in which a piece of cartilage, along with a thin layer of bone separates because of inadequate blood supply. The separated fragments are sometimes called “joint mice”.

  • Radial Head Fractures of the Elbow

    Radial head fractures are very common and occur in almost 20% of acute elbow injuries. Elbow dislocations are generally associated with radial head fractures.

  • Throwing Injuries

    An athlete uses an overhand throw to achieve greater speed and distance. Repeated throwing in sports such as baseball and basketball can place a lot of stress on the joints of the arm, and lead to weakening and ultimately, injury to the structures in the elbow.

  • Posterior Impingement of the Elbow

    Posterior elbow impingement is a medical condition characterized by compression and injury of soft tissue structures such as cartilage at the posterior aspect (back) of the elbow joint.

  • Lateral Impingement of the Elbow

    Lateral elbow impingement is a medical condition characterized by compression and injury of the soft tissue structures, such as cartilage located at the outer aspect of the elbow joint.

  • Triceps Injuries

    The triceps or triceps brachii is a crucial muscle of the upper arm (humerus). It runs along the upper arm bone between the shoulder and elbow.

  • Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Capitellum

    OCD of the capitellum is a localized fragmentation and separation of subchondral bone - meaning the bone below the cartilage - in your elbow.

  • Triceps Tendonitis

    Triceps tendonitis is inflammation of the triceps tendon, the tissue that connects the triceps muscle on the back of the upper arm to the back of the elbow joint, allowing you to straighten your arm back after you have bent it.

  • Ulnar Nerve Neuropathy

    Ulnar nerve neuropathy is the entrapment or compression of the ulnar nerve causing impairment of its function.

  • Radial Tunnel Syndrome

    Radial tunnel syndrome is a painful condition caused by pressure on the radial nerve of the forearm.

  • Lateral Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injuries (Elbow)

    A ligament is a band of elastic, tough fibrous connective tissue around a joint. It attaches bone to bone, supports and holds them together and limits the joint's movement.

  • Post-traumatic Stiffness (Elbow)

    Medically, stiffness is difficulty moving a joint due to the loss of the joint’s range of motion caused by an injury (trauma) or a disorder.

  • Revision Elbow Replacement

    Revision elbow replacement is a surgery performed to replace a loose or worn out initial elbow replacement. Typically, cemented semi-constrained prostheses are used for revision elbow replacement.

  • Tennis Elbow Surgery

    Tennis elbow is a common name for the elbow condition lateral epicondylitis. It is an overuse injury that causes inflammation and microtears of the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle.

  • Distal Biceps Repair

    The biceps is a large muscle located in the front of your upper arm and runs from the shoulder to the elbow joint. It is attached to the bones of the shoulder and elbow by tendons.

  • Elbow Ligament Reconstruction

    Ligament reconstruction is considered in patients with ligament rupture. Your surgeon will make an incision over the elbow. Care is taken to move muscles, tendons, and nerves out of the way.

  • Elbow Tendon and Ligament Repair

    The common conditions affecting the tendons around the elbow joint include tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow, which result from an overuse injury to the tendons in weight lifting, or from repetitive activities during sports or occupation.

  • Ulnar Nerve Release

    Ulnar nerve release, also known as ulnar nerve decompression, is a surgical procedure to treat a medical condition called ulnar nerve entrapment.

  • Cubital Tunnel Release (Medial Epicondylectomy)

    Cubital tunnel syndrome is a condition characterized by compression of the ulnar nerve in an area of the elbow called the cubital tunnel.

  • Golfer's Elbow Surgery

    Golfer’s elbow is a condition associated with pain on the inside of the elbow where tendons of your forearm attach to the bony prominence (medial epicondyle). It is also called medial epicondylitis and is caused by injury or irritation to the tendons which can become painful and swollen.

  • Open Elbow Surgery

    Open elbow surgery is an operative procedure performed to treat certain conditions of your elbow through a large, open cut (incision) in the skin using a scalpel.

  • UCL Reconstruction (Tommy John Surgery)

    Commonly called Tommy John surgery, this procedure involves reconstructing a damaged ligament on the inside of the elbow called the ulnar or medial collateral ligament with a tendon graft obtained from your own body or a donor.

  • Malunion Surgery (Elbow)

    Malunion, also known as crooked healing, is the failure of a fractured bone to rejoin properly due to poor alignment of the fracture fragments.

  • Elbow Fracture Reconstruction

    Elbow fracture reconstruction is a surgical procedure employed to repair and restore the appearance and full function of a damaged elbow caused by severe trauma or injury.

  • Radial Head ORIF and Replacement

    Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) of the radial head is a surgical technique employed for the treatment of a radial head fracture to restore normal anatomy and improve range of motion and function.

  • Ulnar Nerve Transposition

    The ulnar nerve is one of the 3 main nerves in the arm that travels down from the neck through a bony protuberance inside the elbow (medial epicondyle), under the muscles of the forearm and down the hand on the side of the palm, towards the little finger.

  • Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Repair with Internal Brace

    UCL repair with an internal brace is a surgery that involves the use of collagen-coated tape (internal brace) surgically placed at the site of the damaged UCL ligaments.

  • Elbow Fusion Surgery

    Fusion eliminates pain by allowing the bones of the joint to grow together, or fuse, into one solid bone. Fusions were very common before effective artificial joints were available and are still performed.

The elbow is a complex joint formed by the articulation of three bones – the humerus, radius, and ulna. The elbow joint helps in bending or straightening of the arm to 180 degrees and lifting or moving objects.

The bones of the elbow are supported by:

  • Ligaments and tendons
  • Muscles
  • Nerves
  • Blood vessels

Bones and Joints of the Elbow

The elbow joint is formed at the junction of three bones:

  • The humerus (upper arm bone) forms the upper portion of the joint. The lower end of the humerus divides into two bony protrusions known as the medial and lateral epicondyles, which can be felt on either side of the elbow joint.
  • The ulna is the larger bone of the forearm located on the inner surface of the joint. It articulates with the humerus.
  • The radius is the smaller bone of the forearm situated on the outer surface of the joint. The head of the radius is circular and hollow, which allows movement with the humerus. The articulation between the ulna and radius helps the forearm to rotate.

The elbow consists of three joints, namely:

  • The humeroulnar joint is formed between the humerus and ulna and allows flexion and extension of the arm.
  • The humeroradial joint is formed between the radius and humerus and allows movements like flexion, extension, supination, and pronation.
  • The radioulnar joint is formed between the ulna and radius bones and allows rotation of the lower arm.

Articular cartilage lines the articulating regions of the humerus, radius, and ulna. It is a thin, tough, flexible and slippery surface that acts as a shock absorber and cushion to reduce friction between the bones. The cartilage is lubricated with synovial fluid, which further enables the smooth movement of the bones.

Muscles of the Elbow Joint

There are several muscles extending across the elbow joint that help in various movements. These include the following:

  • Biceps brachii: Upper arm muscle, enabling flexion of the arm
  • Triceps brachii: Muscle in the back of the upper arm that extends the arm and fixes the elbow during fine movements
  • Brachialis: Upper arm muscle beneath the biceps, which flexes the elbow towards the body
  • Brachioradialis: Forearm muscle that flexes, straightens and pulls the arm at the elbow
  • Pronator teres: Muscle that extends from the humeral head, across the elbow, and towards the ulna, and helps to turn the palm facing backward
  • Extensor carpi radialis brevis: Forearm muscle that helps in movement of the hand
  • Extensor digitorum: Forearm muscle that helps in movement of the fingers

Ligaments and Tendons of the Elbow

The elbow joint is supported by ligaments and tendons, which provide stability to the joint.

Ligaments are a group of firm tissues that connect bones to other bones. The most important ligaments of the elbow joint are the:

  • Medial or ulnar collateral ligament: Comprised of triangular bands of tissue on the inner side of the elbow joint
  • Lateral or radial collateral ligament: A thin band of tissue on the outer side of the elbow joint
  • Annular ligament: Group of fibers that surround the radial head, and hold the ulna and radius tightly in place during movement of the arm

Together, the medial and lateral ligaments are the main source of stability and hold the humerus and ulna tightly in place during movement of the arm.

The ligaments around a joint combine to form a joint capsule that contains synovial fluid.

Any injury to these ligaments can lead to instability of the elbow joint.

Tendons are bands of connective tissue fibers that connect muscle to bone. The various tendons that surround the elbow joint include:

  • Biceps tendon: attaches the biceps muscle to the radius, allowing the elbow to bend
  • Triceps tendon: attaches the triceps muscle to the ulna, allowing the elbow to straighten

Nerves of the Elbow

The main nerves of the elbow joint are the ulnar, radial and median nerves. These nerves transfer signals from the brain to the muscles that aid in elbow movements. They also carry sensory signals such as touch, pain, and temperature back to the brain.

Any injury or damage to these nerves causes pain, weakness or joint instability.

Blood Vessels Supplying the Elbow

Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-pure blood from the heart to the hand. The main artery of the elbow is the brachial artery that travels across the inside of the elbow and divides into two small branches below the elbow to form the ulnar and the radial artery.

  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • American Association for Hand Surgery
  • American Academy Of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • The American Board of Pediatrics
  • North American Spine Society
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