Arm Flexion after Elbow Lifts

Q: Dr. Eppley, I have a question about elbow lifts and what can be done after the surgery in terms of physical activity. I was wondering how long before a patient would be able to bend her arm fully after having had elbow lifts? Thank you

A: What you are referring is when can the patient after an elbow lift bend their arm beyond 90 to 110 degrees without risk of creating a wound separation of the incision line which is placed perpendicular to the extension-flexion movement of the arm. That answer is around 3 weeks after the surgery. Fortunately most activities of normal daily living do not require such full arm flexion movements.

Being well aware of the need to protect the incisions after surgery, elbow lifts are performed with the arm bent at 90 degrees. This ensures that over resection of skin is not done preventing undesirable scarring and the risk of wound separation if one should accidentally bend their arm over 90 degrees in the first few weeks after surgery.

Careful preoperative marking with the arm both straight and bent at 90 degrees is paramount in deciding on how big the crescent of tissue excision should be.  But following the principle of ‘less is more’ is a good approach with elbow lifts.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana