I am a 72-year-old woman with an elbow replacement joint. Unfortunately, I got an infection in the joint, and it has to be removed. Too much of the joint has been destroyed to put in another joint replacement. The doctor is recommending arthrodesis. What is this?

Arthrodesis is a surgical procedure that will fuse your elbow joint in one position. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. The procedure may involve a bone graft and/or wires to hold the bones together. In the case of a graft, the bone may come from a bone bank, or the doctor may shave pieces of bone from your pelvic bone.

The most important decision about elbow arthrodesis is the final position of the elbow. Once fused, the elbow will not bend or straighten out of that position. The position of the elbow is very important since the arm does tasks with the elbow bent (wash the face, comb the hair) and straightened (reach for objects, tie shoes). Be sure to discuss this important decision with your doctor.