New Method for Scoping Out Elbow Problems

This case report features a 34-year old woman with a history of right elbow and forearm pain. Her diagnosis was radial tunnel syndrome (RTS). With RTS, there's pressure on a branch of the radial nerve as it passes through the elbow.

Most of the time RTS gets better with conservative treatment. Sometimes surgery is needed. The standard operation is with an open incision. But since arthroscopy has been used to treat similar problems in other joints, these surgeons tried it in this case. The results are reported in this study.

The surgeons looked inside the elbow using an arthroscope, a slender tool with a tiny TV camera on the end. They were able to see a ganglion cyst pressing on the nerve causing the patient's pain. There was a small hole in the joint capsule leaking fluid into the sac forming the cyst. The front half of the joint capsule was removed along with the cyst. This took the pressure off the nerve.

The patient was able to get full motion back in her elbow after the operation. She was also pain free for the first time in three years. The authors conclude that arthroscopy can be used to operate on the elbow. A surgeon with good skills and a lot of practice can avoid damaging the nerves in this area. This is an important step in the treatment of elbow problems. More research is needed to study this problem.

References: Joseph Mileti MD, et al. Radial Tunnel Syndrome Caused By Ganglion Cyst: Treatment By Arthroscopic Cyst Decompression. In Arthroscopy. May/June 2004. Vol. 20. No. 5. Pp. E39-46.