Elbow Arthritis

Arthritis in the elbow can occur after an injury (post-traumatic arthritis), congenital lack of blood supply to the bone causing flaking off of the cartilage called Osteochondritis Dessicans.


Arthritis in the elbow is the loss of the elbows joint cartilage, resulting in limited elbow motion and pain with use.

Common Causes of Elbow Arthritis

  • Injury (post-traumatic arthritis)
  • Congenital lack of blood supply to the bone. Causes flaking off of the cartilage called osteochondritis dessicans (OCD)
  • Infection
  • Inflammatory arthropathies: Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Psoriatic arthritis


Total Elbow Replacement

Treatment of elbow arthritis begins with determining the cause and severity. Nonsurgical Treatment Options

  • Anti-inflammatory medications selected by a rheumatologist
  • Therapy with a certified therapist
  • Steroid injections in the elbow
  • Activity modifications

If a conservative trial of nonsurgical options is unsuccessful, then surgical treatment can be considered.

Surgical Treatment Options:

  • Arthroscopic debridement
  • Elbow resurfacing arthroplasty with transferred tissue – Autograft or Allograft
  • Formal elbow replacement with an implant arthroplasty

Conditions Treated by an Arthroscopic Debridement if the condition is mild to moderate in severity:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Post-traumatic arthritis
  • Infection
  • Removal of loose bodies
  • Ostoechondral dessicans
  • Pigmented Villonodular Synovitis (PVNS)

PVNS is a rare type of synovial tumor. It is caused by the proliferation of the elbow synovial membrane. This produces giant cells, a cell type that normally cleans up necrotic tissue in the body. However, when there is no necrotic tissue, it invades the normal tissue like a tumor. This creates joint destruction, which leaves behind the products of red cell rupture, called hemosiderin.

After an arthroscopic debridement, low dose radiation to the elbow should be considered due to the high recurrence rate of PVNS.