Tennis elbow surgery

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Tennis elbow is caused by doing the same forceful arm movements over and over. It creates small, painful tears in the tendons in your elbow. 

This injury can be caused by tennis, other racquet sports, and activities such as turning a wrench or chopping with a knife. The outside (lateral) elbow tendon is most commonly injured. The inside (medial) and backside (posterior) tendons can also be affected.

This article discusses surgery to repair tennis elbow.

Alternative Names

Lateral epicondylitis - surgery; Lateral tendinosis - surgery; Lateral tennis elbow - surgery


Surgery to repair tennis elbow is usually an outpatient surgery. This means you will not stay in the hospital overnight. 

You will be given medicine to help you relax and make you sleepy. Numbing medicine (anesthesia) is given in your arm. This blocks pain during your surgery.

You will usually be awake during the surgery. 

If you have open surgery, your surgeon will make one cut (incision) over your injured tendon. The unhealthy part of the tendon is scraped away.  The surgeon may repair the tendon using something called a suture anchor, or it may be stitched to other tendons. When the surgery is over, the cut is closed with stitches.

Sometimes, tennis elbow surgery is done using an arthroscope. This is a thin tube with a tiny camera and light on the end. Before surgery, you will get the same medicines as in open surgery to make you relax and to block pain.

The surgeon makes 1 or 2 small cuts, and inserts the scope. The scope is attached to a video monitor. This helps your surgeon see inside the elbow area. The surgeon scrapes away the unhealthy part of the tendon.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

You may need surgery if you: 

  • Have tried other treatments for at least 3 months; and
  • Are still having pain that limits your activity

Treatments you should try first are:  

  • Limit activity or sports to rest your arm.
  • Change the sports equipment you are using.
  • Take medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
  • Do exercises to relieve pain. Your doctor can recommend some.
  • Make workplace changes to improve your sitting position and how you use equipment at work.
  • Wear elbow splints or braces to rest your muscles and tendons.
  • Get shots of steroid medicine, such as cortisone.


Risks of tennis elbow surgery are:

  • Loss of strength in your forearm
  • Decreased range of motion in your elbow
  • Need for long-term physical therapy
  • Allergic reactions to medicines
  • Bleeding
  • Infection 
  • Injury to nerves or blood vessels
  • Scar that is sore when you touch it
  • Need for more surgery

Before the Procedure


After the Procedure

  • Always tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including those bought without a prescription. This includes herbs, supplements, and vitamins.
  • You may be asked to stop taking drugs that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve).
  • Ask your doctor which medicines you should still take on the day of your surgery.
  • If you smoke, try to stop. Ask your doctor or nurse for help. Smoking can slow healing.
  • Tell your doctor if you have a cold, flu, fever, or other sickness before your surgery.
  • You will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything for 6 to 12 hours before surgery.
  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the surgery center.

Outlook (Prognosis)

You can go home when the medicine that made you sleepy and relaxed wears off.



Phillips BB. Arthroscopy of the Upper Extremity. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds.Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 49.

Budoff JE. Tendon Injuries and Tendinopathies. In: Trumble T, ed. Core Knowledge in Orthopaedics - Hand, Elbow, and Shoulder. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2005:chap 35. 

Version Info

  • Last Reviewed on 11/15/2012
  • C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery; A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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