Tennis elbow surgery sometimes is a good option for those with severe tennis elbow caused by overuse of the tendons and forearm muscles that join at the elbow. Tennis elbow is a common problem in athletes, active people and workers aged 30 to 50.

What is a Tennis Elbow Surgery?

During the surgery, some tendon may be removed and healthy tendon will be reattached to the bone. Specifics beyond that will depend on the individual. Tennis Elbow surgery will be an outpatient (no hospital stay) surgery, but it can be performed with a very small incision (minimally-invasive), or more commonly, as open surgery.

Who should have a Tennis Elbow Surgery?

People who have been diagnosed with tennis elbow usually have pain along the outside of the forearm and elbow, pain down to the wrist and pain trying to raise the arm or grip small objects in certain ways. Sometimes imaging is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Tennis elbow surgery is a treatment of last resort, as about 80 to 95 percent of patients recover using nonsurgical treatment, which may include:

  • Rest
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Equipment check
  • Physical therapy
  • Brace
  • Steroid injections
  • Extracorporeal shock wave therapy

Typically, nonsurgical treatments would be tried for at least 6-12 months before surgery would be recommended.

Does Tennis Elbow Surgery Work?

In one study, 81 percent of patients had good or excellent measurable outcomes for relief from pain and restoration of daily activity function. There are different risks for open versus arthroscopic surgery, though any surgery poses a low risk of complications such as anesthesia reaction, infection and bleeding.

What can I expect when I have a Tennis Elbow Surgery?

After you schedule surgery, you may need a pre-surgical physical to make any necessary accommodations based on your health history. When you arrive at the hospital, you’ll speak to your surgeon and anesthesiologist. This is an outpatient surgery, so you will go home the same day.

Following surgery, your arm may be immobilized temporarily with a splint. About 10-14 days later, the sutures and splint are removed. You can return to most normal activities, including driving, when you are off the pain medicines, typically also about a week. You’ll be given some home exercises and start therapy after about two months.

Full recovery will take about four to six months. If a certain activity caused your tennis elbow, it is usually recommended that you avoid that activity to the extent possible.