Loose Bodies in the Elbow

Loose bodies in the elbow are small fragments of bone or cartilage that have detached from the joint surfaces. These fragments float freely within the joint space and can cause discomfort, pain, and limited mobility.


Loose bodies in the elbow often present with the following symptoms:

  • Pain, particularly when moving the elbow
  • Stiffness or restricted movement
  • Intermittent locking of the elbow
  • Swelling and tenderness around the joint


Diagnosis of loose bodies in the elbow typically involves:

  • Physical examination to assess pain, swelling, and range of motion
  • Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI to visualise the loose bodies


While it’s not always possible to prevent loose bodies from forming, certain measures can reduce the risk:

  • Avoid repetitive strain on the elbow joint
  • Use protective gear during sports to prevent injury
  • Seek prompt medical attention for elbow injuries to minimise complications

Treatment Options

There are several methods to treat loose bodies in the elbow:

  • Conservative Management: Initially, doctors may recommend rest, physiotherapy, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to alleviate symptoms.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: These can help reduce inflammation and pain in the elbow, especially for cases where the loose bodies are causing significant discomfort.
  • Arthroscopic Surgery: This minimally invasive surgical procedure involves inserting a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the elbow joint to visualise and remove the loose bodies. The procedure is generally considered safe and has a relatively short recovery time.
  • Open Surgery: In more severe cases, or when arthroscopy is not an option, open surgery may be necessary to remove the loose bodies. This involves a larger incision and a longer recovery period.