The world's first total elbow replacement was performed at Rhode Island Hospital. The new procedure is a vast improvement on earlier elbow replacement surgeries, which required the surgeon to choose between two implant types, each with a limited success rate. Rhode Island Hospital orthopedist Arnold-Peter Weiss, MD, headed the design team for the device, which is manufactured by DePuy, a division of Johnson & Johnson.
The procedure is an option for patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, both of which can cause loss of motion and pain in the elbow. Minor orthopedic surgery can sometimes correct the problem. When it cannot, replacing the entire joint is the best option. For children with arthritis, elbow replacement is an option only after the bones have finished growing and the joint is severely damaged.
"This is the first artificial joint that allows complete customization for patients with severe arthritis of the elbow," says Weiss. "This gives the surgeon maximum flexibility in the procedure and increases the longevity of the joint for the patient."
In the new procedure, the surgeon inserts two metal implants on either end of the bones that connect the elbow. Another implant, connecting the two implants, can be tailored to meet the movement needs of the patient. A plus to the new joint is that each piece may be replaced separately if there is a problem with it after surgery.
Compared to earlier implants, the new design reduces the stress on both the bone and the implant, which lessens the chance that it will loosen and need to be replaced.