BACKGROUND: Elbow surgery is shared by several subspecialties. We were curious about the most common elbow surgeries and their corresponding diagnoses in the United States.
METHODS: We used the National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS) and the National Survey of Ambulatory Surgery (NSAS) data gathered in 2006-databases that together provide an estimate of all inpatient and ambulatory surgical care in the US.
RESULTS: An estimated 150,000 elbow surgeries were performed in the US in 2006, 75% in an outpatient setting. The most frequent diagnosis treated operative was enthesopathy (e.g. lateral epicondylitis) and it was treated with several different procedures. More than three quarters of all elbow surgeries treated enthesopathy, cubital tunnel syndrome, or fracture (radial head in particular). Arthroscopy and arthroplasty accounted for less than 10% of all elbow surgeries.
CONCLUSIONS: Elbow surgery in the United States primarily addresses enthesopathies such as tennis elbow, cubital tunnel syndrome, and trauma. It is notable that some of the most common elbow surgeries (those that address enthesopathy and radial head fracture) are some of the most variably utilized and debated.