Dr James McLean
MS, MBBS, FRACS (Ortho), FA Orth A
Dr James McLean
MS, MBBS, FRACS (Ortho), FA Orth A
This information has been designed to give you a basic understanding of your elbow, the surgeries performed and what to expect during your hospitalisation. Please keep in mind that this is a guideline only and that each individual has different needs so you may progress at a different rate to that which is outlined.
Your Orthopaedics SA specialist will be happy to address any questions which might arise after reading this information.
Normal Anatomy of the Elbow
The arm in the human body is made up of three bones that join together to form a hinge joint called the elbow. The upper arm bone or humerus connects from the shoulder to the elbow forming the top of the hinge joint. The lower arm or forearm consists of two bones, the radius and the ulna. These bones connect the wrist to the elbow forming the bottom portion of the hinge joint.
The elbow joint is actually three separate joints surrounded by a watertight sac called a joint capsule. This capsule surrounds the elbow joint and contains lubricating fluid called synovial fluid.
The three joints of the elbow include:
- Ulnohumeral joint is where movement between the ulna and humerus occurs.
- Radiohumeral joint is where movement between the radius and humerus occurs.
- Proximal radioulnar joint is where movement between the radius and ulna occurs.
Our Elbow is held in place and supported by various soft tissues.
Shiny and smooth, cartilage allows smooth movement where two bones come in contact with each other.
Tendons are the soft tissue structures that connects muscles to bones to provide support.
- Biceps Tendon: This tendon attaches the biceps muscle on the front of the arm to the radius allowing supination, rotation of the elbow.
- Triceps Tendon: This tendon attaches the triceps muscle on the back of the arm to the ulna bone allowing the elbow to straighten.
- Lateral Epicondyle: This bony prominence located just above the elbow on the outside is where the forearm muscles that straighten the fingers and wrist come together in one tendon to attach to the humerus.
- Medial Epicondyle: This bony prominence located just above the elbow on the inside is where the muscles that bend the fingers and wrist come together in one tendon to attach to the humerus.
Ligaments are strong rope like tissue that connects bones to other bones and help hold tendons in place providing stability to joints. Ligaments around the elbow join to form a watertight sac called a joint capsule. This capsule surrounds the elbow joint and contains lubricating fluid called synovial fluid.
There are four main ligaments in the elbow.
- Medial collateral ligament
Located on the inside of the elbow this ligament connects the ulna to the humerus.
- Lateral collateral ligament
Located on the outside of the elbow this ligament connects the radius to the humerus.
- Annular ligament forms a ring around the head of the radius bone, holding it tight against the ulna.
- Quadrate ligament connects the radius to the ulna.
are fibrous tissue capable of contracting to cause body movement.
- Biceps is the large muscle on the front of the arm above the elbow that allows elbow supination, rotation of the elbow.
- Triceps the large muscle on the back of the arm above the elbow enabling elbow extension, straightening of the elbow.
- Brachialis is the primary elbow flexor enabling bending of the elbow. It is located at the distal end of the humerus.
- Wrist extensors:
These muscles of the forearm attach to the lateral epicondyle enabling extension of the hand and wrist.
- Wrist flexors:
These muscles of the forearm attach to the medial epicondyle enabling flexion of the hand and wrist.
Nerves are responsible for carrying signals back and forth from the brain to muscles in our body, enabling movement and sensation such as touch, pain, and hot or cold.
The three main nerves of the arm include:
- Radial nerve
- Ulnar nerve
- Median nerve
All three nerves begin at the shoulder and travel down the arm across the elbow.
These branches are:
- Radial Artery: The radial artery is the largest artery supplying the hand and wrist area. Traveling across the front of the wrist, nearest the thumb, it is this artery that is palpated when a pulse is counted at the wrist.
- Ulnar Artery: The ulnar artery travels next to the ulnar nerve through Guyon’s canal in the wrist. It supplies blood flow to the front of the hand, fingers and thumb.
Bursae are small fluid filled sacs that decrease friction between tendons and bone or skin. Bursae contain special cells called synovial cells that secrete a lubricating fluid. When this fluid becomes infected, a common painful condition known as bursitis can develop.
Elbow fractures may occur from trauma resulting from a variety of reasons, some of them being a fall on an outstretched arm, a direct blow to the elbow, or an abnormal twist to the joint beyond its functional limit.
For more information about Elbow Fracture, click on below tabs.
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is an overuse injury that causes inflammation of the tendons that attach to the bony prominence on the outside of the elbow.
For more information about Tennis Elbow, click on below tabs.
The elbow is the joint that connects the upper arm bone and the forearm bones. Elbow joint helps in movement of the arms forward, backward, as well as to twist the arms inside and outside.
For more information about Elbow Arthroscopy, click on below tabs.
Golfer’s elbow, also called Medial Epicondylitis, is a painful condition occurring from repeated muscle contractions in the forearm that leads to inflammation and microtears in the tendons that attach to the medial epicondyle.
For more information about Golfer’s Elbow, click on below tabs.
Elbow sprain is a common injury that occurs from over stretching or tearing of the ligaments that support the elbow.
For more information about Elbow Sprain, click on below tabs.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS refers to the painful condition affecting the wrist and hand. The carpal tunnel is formed by the wrist bones and the carpal tunnel ligament. The median nerve (which supplies sensation to the thumb, index and middle fingers) and the tendons (which allow movement of the hand and fingers) passes through the carpal tunnel.