When other treatments and rehabilitation fail to provide relief to the affected area, surgery may be prescribed as an alternate option to get rid of the pain.

When should tennis elbow surgery be considered?

In typical cases, the indication should only be given due to failure of proper rehabilitation. Some authors set a period (3-12 months), but this pattern is relative. We must consider that approximately 85% of cases improve with appropriate rehabilitation.

Although tennis elbow surgery should only be considered as a last resort, you should know that it is a very safe procedure and complications occur rarely. When complications do occur they are usually related to anesthesia problems and not to the procedure itself, however, risk is a part of every surgical intervention.

What are the risks?

Some risks are present on any type of surgery, these may include: deep infection of the arm or the skin around the incision, hemorrhage or a painful/unsightly scarring.

Other risks or complications, although not likely to occur, are specific to this type of surgery; these may include: damage of the nerves (which causes weakness, paralysis and loss of sensitivity in the arm and/or hand); there’s a possibility that the tendons get damaged, causing weakness on the hand or wrist.

It is also possible that tennis elbow symptoms don’t disappear with surgery or get worse afterwards; it is even possible, after a successful procedure, that the symptoms relapse.

General anesthesia complications may also ocurr; these may include: nausea, vomit, chapping of the lips, urinary retention, headaches, teeth fractures and burning of the throat. More threatening complications of the general anesthesia are embolism, pneumonia and heart attacks. If you experience any of the above after surgery, contact your doctor or healthcare provider immediately so appropriate action can be taken.

What to expect from tennis elbow surgery?

Surgery is performed under local, regional or general anesthesia. In the most common procedures an incision is made over the epicondyle and the affected tendon is trimmed.

A different procedure involves releasing the tendon from the bone and reattaching it to another place on the bone. In most cases you will be able to go home after you recover from the anesthesia.

Other surgical alternatives are available and your doctor should discuss them with you before making a decision; please visit our latest news section so you and your doctor make the most informed decision possible.

What happens after a tennis elbow surgery?

You will need to use an arm splint to immobilize the arm; maintain your arm elevated, and the area where the surgery was performed, dry. When you sleep it is recommended that you keep the arm above heart level; this is to reduce the blood circulation pressure and avoid throbbing.

Stitches are usually removed after 10 to 14 days and physical therapy is then started. Depending on the type of surgery performed and your current health condition, the doctor will let you know when it is safe to get back to work; you will not be able to drive for about a week after the stitches are removed.

Only after 4 to 5 weeks will you be able to tell if the pain is definitely gone, even after performing physical therapy. However it may take months before you can fully use your arm without any restrictions. It is also a possibility, as mentioned before, that surgery does not resolve the tennis elbow symptoms in some patients; if this is the case, alternative surgical procedures may be considered.