Arthrofibrosis of the Elbow

When Scar Tissue Forms Around The Elbow Joint

elbow bend
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Arthrofibrosis is a condition that causes scar tissue formation within the capsule that surrounds the elbow joint. Arthrofibrosis has several possible causes including:

  • Injuries to the elbow including fractures
  • Inflammation of the joint
  • Surgical procedures such as elbow arthroscopy

When arthrofibrosis occurs, a dense scar tissue forms around the joint. This can bind down the elbow joint, and prevent normal motion.

  The most common symptom of arthrofibrosis is stiffness of the joint.  Patients will have limited range of motion, and often pain. 

Normal Elbow Motion

While most people expect to be able to fully straighten their elbow, and bend the forearm all the way up to the shoulder, this is actually more than you need.  While normal motion may be from 0 degrees to 145 degrees, a functional range of motion is more critical.

Function range of motion is the amount of mobility needed to do most routine activities.  A functional range of motion is from 30-130 degrees.  Patients who have this range of motion are generally considered to have adequate joint mobility.  It is interesting to note, that almost no routine activities are performed with your elbow straight.  Even when you carry heavy objects, you generally have your elbow bend at least 30 degrees.

Preventing The Problem

Prevention of arthrofibrosis is best accomplished with early motion following surgery or injury.

If the problem of arthrofibrosis cannot be solved with aggressive therapy, then surgery may be necessary to remove the fibrous tissue. This is followed with aggressive physical therapy to regain motion.

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