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Elbow Contracture


Elbow Contracture Specialist

Elbow contracture is a common complication that usually occurs following elbow surgery, fractures, dislocations, trauma or burns. It is characterized by a stiff elbow with a limited range of motion and usually with no associated pain. Elbow contracture specialist, Dr. Kelechi Okoroha provides diagnosis and individualized non-surgical and surgical management for elbow contracture in Minneapolis. Contact Dr. Okoroha’s team for an appointment today!

What is 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.

The normal functional range of motion for an elbow is 30-145 degrees. A stiff or contracted elbow may be diagnosed when the ability to extend or flex the arm is lessened by 30 degrees or more. Flexion contractures greater than 45 degrees will significantly affect your ability to perform activities of daily living such as bathing and eating.

Symptoms of Elbow Contracture

The symptoms of elbow contracture include the following:

  • Stiffness of the elbow
  • Inability to fully extend or flex the arm
  • Usually no associated pain

Causes of Elbow Contracture

The causes and risk factors associated with elbow contracture include:

  • Elbow trauma
  • Elbow surgery
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Loose bodies
  • Osteophytes or bone spurs
  • Malunions of fractures
  • Joint infection
  • Burns

When an elbow contracture is suspected, it is important to schedule an orthopedic consultation for proper examination and care. Dr. Kelechi Okoroha is elbow contracture specialist who provides detailed examination and care for patients with elbow contracture in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Minnesota and beyond.

Diagnosis of Elbow Contracture

Elbow conditions should be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment. The diagnosis of an elbow contracture is based on review of your medical history and a thorough physical examination performed by Dr. Okoroha. He will also order diagnostic studies such as X-ray, CT scan, MRI and nerve conduction studies.

Treatment Options for Elbow Contracture

After careful review of your history and examination, Dr. Okoroha will provide an individualized treatment plan to help you return to your normal function. Treatment options may include the following.

Conservative Treatment

Conservative treatment options for elbow contracture can successfully treat most elbow contractures of less than 6 months’ duration. These options will be based on your condition and may include the following:

  • Physical therapy
  • Splinting
  • Casting
  • Manipulation

Surgical Treatment

If conservative treatment options fail to improve the elbow contracture despite your adherence to physical therapy, Dr. Okoroha may recommend surgery.

Capsular release is a surgical procedure to release the contracture associated with elbow stiffness. This surgery may be performed through a large, open incision or arthroscopically through much smaller incisions. Arthroscopic elbow capsular release is a minimally invasive surgery performed in a hospital operating room under general or regional anesthesia.

Dr. Okoroha will discuss the options with you and decide which surgical technique will be best for your condition.

Postoperative Care after Elbow Capsular Release

After surgery, Dr. Okoroha will give you instructions to follow depending on the type of repair performed. Common postoperative care following elbow contracture release includes the following:

  • Initially, you will have a lightly wrapped, bulky bandage from your shoulder to your hand to minimize swelling and bleeding.
  • A catheter will be placed and left in the axillary or armpit area for administering a brachial plexus block anesthetic for pain relief.
  • Continuous passive range of motion will begin within a day after surgery.
  • Elevate the elbow on a pillow and applying ice packs over the dressing to help reduce swelling.
  • Keep the incisions clean and dry. You may shower once the dressings are removed unless otherwise directed by Dr. Okoroha.
  • You will be given specific instructions regarding activity and rehabilitation. It is imperative that you comply with physical therapy directions for the best outcome from your surgery.
  • Eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking will promote healing.

Risks and Complications after Elbow Capsular Release

Arthroscopic elbow capsular release is a safe procedure that rarely involves any major complications. Some possible complications may include infection and nerve damage.

If you have experienced an elbow contracture, please contact Dr. Kelechi Okoroha, orthopedic elbow specialist treating patients in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Minnesota and beyond.