What to Expect During Tommy John, UCL Surgery
UCL Surgery (Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction Surgery), also known as Tommy John Surgery is a surgical graft procedure performed to repair an injured elbow ligament. It is named after LA Dodgers Pitcher Tommy John, who first underwent the surgery in 1974. Until then, UCL injuries were a career-ending injury to baseball pitchers. Since then, thousands of athletes have benefited from the surgery, and find that they are able to return to play after recovery. During this surgery, Dr. Madsen will replace the injured ligament with a tendon (known as the graft) from somewhere else in the patient’s body, typically the forearm, knee, thigh, or wrist. The graft is then woven in a figure 8 pattern to repair the torn ligament. The surgery usually takes about 60-90 minutes.
Prior to a UCL Reconstruction Surgery, Dr. Madsen may perform an arthroscopy to assess the damage to the elbow. During an arthroscopy procedure, a lighted tube with a tiny camera called an arthroscope is inserted into the patient. Tiny surgical tools and instruments are used through small cuts while the doctor views the surgical site on a screen.
Recovering from a UCL Surgery
UCL Reconstruction Surgery is a productive surgery with an 85-90% successful recovery rate. Patients recover in 6-8 weeks with full motion returning in around 6-8 months. Athletes are usually able to return to their respective sports after 12-14 months of recovery time, depending upon their particular case. Following a Tommy John Surgery patients are required to:
- Keep the elbow clean and dry
- Relax for 2 weeks
- Wear an elbow splint for 7-10 days to keep the elbow still
- Keep the elbow elevated to control inflammation
- Avoid strenuous activities to the elbow for 4 months
Follow Up Care
Patients may require physical rehabilitation (rehab) following a UCL surgery. At first, help is provided by either Dr. Madsen or a physical therapist. Once progress is made, patients are given exercises to do on their own. It is vital that patients make and go to all appointments and keep in contact with Dr. Madsen, especially if problems arise. It is also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines prescribed.