Olecranon Fracture Surgery

There are typically two types of surgeries available for an olecranon fracture, including Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF) and a Partial or Total Elbow Replacement.

  • Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF): In ORIF, the surgeon makes an incision over the fracture site and repositions the bone fragments to their normal alignment. They are held together with special screws and metal plates attached to the outer surface of the bone.
  • Partial or Total Elbow Replacement: In more severe cases, or in patients with poor bone quality, an elbow replacement may be performed. The damaged parts of the ulna are replaced with a metal and plastic hinge that allows for functional movement of the joint.

Expected Surgery Outcome

The primary goals of olecranon fracture surgeries are to restore function and eliminate pain in the elbow. Most patients can expect a significant improvement in pain and movement after recovery. Depending on the severity of the fracture and the type of surgery performed, most patients can expect to return to normal activities within 3 to 6 months.

Potential surgery complications and risks

Complications, although rare, can occur. These may include infection, nerve injury leading to weakness or numbness, and complications related to the implants such as loosening or breakage.

Risks

  • Infection: All surgeries carry a risk of infection, which can lead to more serious complications if not treated promptly.
  • Nerve Damage: There is a risk of damage to the nerves near the elbow, resulting in numbness or weakness.
  • Implant complications: The screws, plates, or prosthesis used in the surgery might loosen or break over time, requiring additional surgery.
  • Stiffness: The elbow may become stiff and lose some range of motion after surgery.

Recovery after surgery

Following surgery, patients usually wear a splint or cast for 1 to 2 weeks to protect the repair. Physiotherapy begins as soon as the doctor recommends, which could be a few days or weeks post-surgery, depending on the case. Strengthening exercises usually start a few weeks after the surgery and continue for up to six months. Full recovery, including return to heavy manual work or sports, generally takes 3 to 6 months.