I've been scheduled for a "lateral release" for tennis elbow. I'll be home the same day. What exactly is done in this operation?
Tennis elbow occurs most often when a patient has overused the forearm and elbow or has repeated the same motion over and over. Small, repeated tears develop in the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) tendon. Inflammation sets in. Then scar tissue develops. Sometimes small bits of bone form inside the tendon. This is called calcification.

The chronic motion added to the calcification can cause microtears to become full tears or tendon ruptures. Pain and loss of motion in the wrist and forearm may not respond to therapy. In such cases, an operation is needed to repair the damage.

In the case of a partial tear, the doctor will release the rest of the tendon from the bone. Any scar tissue formed will be removed. The bone may be shaved down to give the tendon a smooth surface to glide across. Then the tendon is reattached to the bone where it belongs. Sometimes a special button or anchor device is used to hold the tendon in place until it heals.

After the operation, you may be in a supportive wrap and sling. Range of motion exercises usually start that day or the next day. After 10 days or so, you'll be getting rid of the sling and moving the arm normally. Strengthening exercises may begin right away or up to six weeks later. This depends on the doctor and the method used to release and repair the tendon.