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Loose Body in the Elbow

Sometimes, a piece of bone or cartilage from a structure in the elbow can break loose or detach from its natural position. This is commonly called a “loose body.” If a loose body floats around the elbow joint, it is referred to as unstable. Loose bodies can be different sizes and can inhibit the natural movement of the elbow, resulting in locking of the elbow joint

Loose Body in the Elbow Hero Image 2

Sometimes, a piece of bone or cartilage from a structure in the elbow can break loose or detach from its natural position. This is commonly called a “loose body.” If a loose body floats around the elbow joint, it is referred to as unstable. Loose bodies can be different sizes and can inhibit the natural movement of the elbow, resulting in locking of the elbow  joint.

What causes Loose Body in the Elbow?

Loose bodies in the elbow can be the result of a traumatic injury to the elbow or wear and tear. In older patients loose bodies in the elbow are  often due to arthritis but in younger patients loose bodies are often due to  from osteochondritis dissecans.

Loose bodies in the elbow are common in these sports:

• Baseball
• Softball

Symptoms

You may have a loose body in the elbow  if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:

• Pain
• Swelling
• Locking (inability of the elbow  to straighten) because the piece gets stuck in the joint
• A feeling like there is a pebble floating around the elbow

When to see a doctor

If you experience symptoms of a loose body in your elbow, such as swelling or locking, make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist. During your appointment, your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms. He/she will then examine the elbow for pain and swelling.

In order to make a diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe the following imaging tests:

• X-ray to identify a loose piece of bone in the elbow
• MRI or CT scan to identify a loose piece of cartilage in the elbow

Non-operative treatment

If a loose body causes symptoms, it will need to be removed surgically.

Condition Specific Exercises

Exercises are not recommended unless prescribed by physician.

Surgical Treatment

A loose body in the elbow  is removed using arthroscopic surgery. Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgical technique that uses several tiny incisions roughly one centimeter long. Through one incision, a special camera attached to a thin, flexible tube called an arthroscope is inserted. This camera allows your surgeon to locate the loose body. Through the other incisions, special instruments are inserted to remove it.

Recovery

Recovery from loose body removal surgery generally takes two to four weeks. You can return to normal play when you have regained full range of motion and strength without any pain. It is important to follow all post-surgery instructions given to you by your doctor.

Sources