When you are first diagnosed with elbow bursitis, your orthopedist will typically recommend conservative remedies like icing the area and taking naproxen. When paired with rest, these measures do sometimes allow the bursa to heal. But in many cases, they just slow down the progression of symptoms. Eventually, the pain will worsen to the point that there's really no option other than surgery. But here's the good news: elbow bursitis surgery is one of the simplest, least invasive orthopedic surgeries that exist. Here's what will happen if you and your orthopedist decide elbow bursitis surgery is right for you.
Elbow bursitis surgery is usually performed in an outpatient surgical center, not in a hospital. You won't be put under general anesthesia for the procedure, so there's typically no need to fast or stop taking your prescription medications.
When you arrive at your appointment, the doctor or nurses will take your vital signs and make sure you have someone to drive you home. Then, you will be dressed in a surgical gown and draped so that your arm is visible to the surgeon, but not to you. You'll be given a local or regional anesthetic that numbs your arm. You won't be able to feel a thing in your arm, but you'll be awake. Some surgeons also give their patients a mild sedative, especially if they're anxious.
Your surgeon will typically make three small incisions in your elbow region. Through the first one, they will insert a camera. Through the other two, they will insert surgical tools. They'll use the camera to guide their tools. When they find your bursa, they will cut it out and pull it out through one of the incisions. There's usually no need to disturb any tendons or ligaments in the process.
Your incisions will be stitched up, and after a few hours under observation, you can return home.
You'll need to keep ice on your elbow and take pain relievers for a few days. But once your incision is healed, you can start going to physical therapy. This should help you regain most of the strength and flexibility in your elbow. Most people are surprised at how quickly they recover after surgery for elbow bursitis. Unless you have a job that requires a lot of manual labor, you can expect to be back to work within two weeks, and often sooner.
Undergoing orthopedic surgery is never fun, but surgery for elbow bursitis is about as approachable as a surgery can be.
For more information, contact a local orthopedic surgeon.