An Overview of Tommy John Surgery
Surgery is sometimes the only option to treat torn or ruptured ligaments of the elbow, depending on the severity of the trauma. Dr. Millett performs Tommy John Surgery—also known as ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction—on patients with elbow ligament damage that is severe or who have failed non-operative treatment.
This is a procedure in which the damaged and torn ligaments in the elbow (on the inside of the bone) are replaced with tendon from elsewhere in the body. Most commonly, tendons are taken from the hamstring (gracilis tendon) or forearm (palmaris longus) of the patient.
Tommy John Surgery gets its name from a pitcher for the LA Dodgers in the 1970’s who was the first professional athlete to successfully undergo the procedure. Today, baseball pitchers remain at highest risk for ulnar collateral ligament tear, requiring Tommy John Surgery.
Like other surgeries, Tommy John Surgery has risks and complications such as infection, nerve or vessel injury, or graft rupture; however, these are very rare.
Recovery Following Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction
Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction has an 85% success rate. Although the surgery takes roughly an hour to perform, the rehabilitation process can take up to a year. After surgery the elbow will be secured in a brace to protect the healing tissue. A few weeks after surgery you will be able to start moving your elbow. At the end of a month, you may be able to fully extend your elbow. Moreover, the rehab process entails physical therapy, pendulum exercises and a regime prescribed by Dr. Millett for a maximized healing process. Sports figures who are not in the pitching position generally take just about 6 months to heal.
For additional resources on Tommy John Surgery, or to determine if you are a candidate for ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, contact the orthopedic office of Dr. Peter Millett.