The purpose of this study was to review a large group of patients who had arthroscopy of the elbow to determine the efficacy and relative risks of this procedure.

We retrospectively reviewed a convenient sample of 172 patients who underwent 187 arthroscopies of the elbow over a 7-year period.

All patients had their charts and radiographs reviewed, and 104 of these patients were also contacted for a telephone interview at an average follow-up of 42.3 months (range, 7 to 115 months).

The procedures were performed primarily by 7 different surgeons, using all 3 standard operating positions and a variety of arthroscopic portals. The most common diagnosis was posterior impingement in 96 patients (51%), followed by loose bodies in 72 patients (31%), and degenerative joint disease in 32 patients (22%). The average preoperative modified Figgie score was 27.7 points (range, 17-43) for all patients. The average postoperative score was 45.4 points (range, 29-50), with the largest increase occurring in the pain score. There were 51 patients (56%) with an excellent surgical result, 37 patients (36%) with a good result, 12 patients (11%) with a fair result, and 4 patients (4%) with a poor result. The average modified Figgie score increased from 31.2 points (range, 22-43) to 46.9 (range, 29-50) postoperatively in professional athletes; from 26.3 to 42.6 in patients who had Workers' Compensation claims but were not professional athletes; from 29.4 to 45.6 in patients with a diagnosis of loose bodies; and from 30.1 to 43.7 in patients with degenerative joint disease. There were 3 known surgical complications (1.6%) overall, 1 of which was a patient who had a transection of the ulnar nerve requiring microsurgical repair. Of the 104 patients who were contacted, 6 patients felt that their symptoms had not improved after surgery. Eight of the 55 baseball players contacted were not able to return to their same level of competition.

Arthroscopy of the elbow appears to be a safe and efficacious procedure with a relatively low complication rate.

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