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Tennis Elbow Surgery: A Comparative Analysis with Other Surgeries

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in the tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow. It is typically caused by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm, such as those used in playing tennis or other racquet sports. While conservative treatments such as rest, physical therapy, and medication are often effective in managing tennis elbow, surgery may be necessary in some cases.

The Role of Surgery in Tennis Elbow Treatment

Surgery for tennis elbow is usually considered when conservative treatments have failed to provide relief after several months. The goal of surgery is to remove the damaged tendon tissue and promote healing. There are several surgical techniques that can be used to treat tennis elbow, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will compare tennis elbow surgery with other surgical options to help patients make informed decisions about their treatment.

Comparing Tennis Elbow Surgery with Non-Surgical Treatments

Before considering surgery, it is important to explore non-surgical treatment options for tennis elbow. These may include:

  • Rest and modification of activities
  • Physical therapy
  • Bracing or splinting
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Steroid injections

While these treatments can be effective for many patients, they may not provide long-term relief for everyone. In cases where symptoms persist or worsen despite conservative measures, surgery may be recommended.

Comparing Tennis Elbow Surgery with Open Surgery

One surgical technique for treating tennis elbow is open surgery, which involves making a large incision in the skin to access the affected area. This allows the surgeon to directly visualize and remove the damaged tendon tissue. Open surgery has been used for many years and is considered the traditional approach to treating tennis elbow.

However, open surgery has several drawbacks:

  • Large incision: The large incision required for open surgery can result in more pain, longer recovery time, and a higher risk of complications such as infection.
  • Scarring: The large incision also increases the likelihood of noticeable scarring.
  • Longer hospital stay: Open surgery typically requires a longer hospital stay compared to other surgical techniques.

Due to these disadvantages, open surgery is now less commonly used for tennis elbow treatment, with many surgeons opting for less invasive techniques.

Comparing Tennis Elbow Surgery with Arthroscopic Surgery

Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive technique that has gained popularity in recent years for the treatment of tennis elbow. It involves making small incisions and using a tiny camera called an arthroscope to guide the surgical instruments.

Arthroscopic surgery offers several advantages over open surgery:

  • Smaller incisions: The smaller incisions used in arthroscopic surgery result in less pain, faster recovery, and reduced scarring.
  • Shorter hospital stay: Arthroscopic surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis, allowing patients to go home the same day.
  • Improved visualization: The arthroscope provides a clear view of the affected area, allowing for precise removal of damaged tissue.

While arthroscopic surgery is generally considered safe and effective for tennis elbow treatment, it may not be suitable for all patients. Factors such as the severity of the condition and the surgeon’s expertise may influence the decision to use arthroscopic surgery.

Comparing Tennis Elbow Surgery with Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a non-surgical treatment option that has gained attention in recent years for its potential to promote healing in various musculoskeletal conditions, including tennis elbow. PRP therapy involves injecting a concentrated solution of the patient’s own platelets into the affected area.

PRP therapy offers several advantages over surgery:

  • Non-invasive: PRP therapy does not require any incisions or anesthesia, making it a less invasive option compared to surgery.
  • Minimal downtime: Patients can typically resume their normal activities shortly after PRP therapy.
  • Natural healing: PRP therapy harnesses the body’s own healing mechanisms to promote tissue repair.

However, it is important to note that the effectiveness of PRP therapy for tennis elbow is still a topic of debate among medical professionals. While some studies have shown promising results, others have found no significant difference between PRP therapy and placebo injections.

Comparing Tennis Elbow Surgery with Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT)

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is another non-surgical treatment option that has been used for tennis elbow. ESWT involves delivering high-energy shockwaves to the affected area, which stimulates the body’s natural healing response.

ESWT offers several advantages over surgery:

  • Non-invasive: ESWT does not require any incisions or anesthesia, making it a less invasive option compared to surgery.
  • No downtime: Patients can typically resume their normal activities immediately after ESWT.
  • High success rate: ESWT has been shown to be effective in relieving pain and improving function in many patients with tennis elbow.

However, it is important to note that ESWT may not be suitable for all patients, and the optimal treatment protocol (e.g., number of sessions, intensity of shockwaves) may vary depending on individual factors.


Tennis elbow surgery is a treatment option that may be considered when conservative measures have failed to provide relief. While open surgery was once the standard approach, less invasive techniques such as arthroscopic surgery, PRP therapy, and ESWT are now commonly used. Each surgical option has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice of treatment should be based on individual factors such as the severity of the condition, patient preferences, and the surgeon’s expertise.

It is important for patients to discuss their options with a qualified healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment for their specific case. While surgery may provide long-term relief for some patients, non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, bracing, and injections should be explored before considering more invasive options.

Ultimately, the goal of any treatment for tennis elbow is to reduce pain, improve function, and promote healing. By understanding the different surgical options available and their potential benefits and risks, patients can make informed decisions about their treatment and work towards a successful recovery.

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