In open surgery, doctors make incisions in the skin to do the procedure. This allows them to open the tissues and see more of the elbow area. It may also increase the risk of problems from surgery, such as infection and the development of scar tissue.
In closed surgery, doctors use special devices to operate through the skin with much smaller incisions. This reduces the chance of infection. It also reduces the time to heal. Disadvantages include the possibility that doctors won't be able to see well enough inside the joint to fix the problem.
A recent study tested this type of surgery for tennis elbow. Doctors used an arthroscope, a miniature TV camera inserted into the joint through a small incision.
For the small number of patients tested, this procedure gave excellent results with no complications. Doctors were able to fully remove the lesions that caused elbow soreness. They were also able to identify other problems that may have added to patients' symptoms.
There are advantages to both open and closed procedures. Talk to your doctor about which method he or she prefers in your case.