Elbow Loose Bodies & Osteochondrosis Dissecans (Panner’s Disease)

My elbow locks

If you have a sudden onset of elbow locking in a way that you are unable to fully bend or extend your elbow, you might have one or more loose bodies. Entrapment of theses causes the sensation of a locked joint and pain.

What are loose bodies?

Loose bodies can occur in every joint. They often are small round cartilage bodies which sometimes can calcify and appear as bony loose bodies on Xray.

Who gets loose bodies?

Loose bodies can occur after joint trauma where small flakes of cartilage with or without bone have broken off and float freely inside the joint. Patients who suffer from ‘Ostechondrosis Dissecans’ (Panner’s disease), a developmental disturbance in the growing skeleton, commonly have loose bodies. Lastly loose bodies can be an expression of arthritis.

Treatment for elbow loose bodies

In cases where the elbow is acutely locked, a disengagement manoeuvre can be carried out. Most patients do not requite and treatment and often loose bodies of the elbow are an incidental and non-symptomatic finding. If locking symptoms are a recurring issue, surgery becomes an option.

Surgery for elbow loose bodies

Generally surgery for elbow loose bodies is carried out as elbow arthroscopy (keyhole surgery). This can involve up to four small incisions of a few millimetres around the elbow to remove loose bodies from all elbow compartments. Sometimes a larger incision is required to remove larger loose bodies. The surgery can be carried out as day surgery.

Preparing for surgery for elbow loose bodies

If required we will arrange for a bulk billed pre-admission clinic at the hospital. This is run by a specialist anaesthetist who will gather information and request investigations that are required for safe anaesthesia. Our reception staff will advise of costs, hospital and admission details.

Recovery from surgery for elbow loose bodies

At the end of the procedure local anaesthetic will be injected to the surgical field and compression bandages will be placed. Exercises can be commenced immediately after the procedure and the arm can be used for light activities of daily living. Dressings and sutures can be removed 10-12 days after the surgery. Full recovery with regaining full range of motion and strength can be expected at the two to four week mark.