Background: Failure of total elbow arthroplasty is more common than after other major joint arthroplasties and is often a result of aseptic loosening, peri-prosthetic infection, fracture and instability. Infection can be a devastating complication, yet there are no established guidelines for the pre-operative diagnosis of total elbow peri-prosthetic infection. This is because pre-operative clinical, radiographic and biochemical tests are often unreliable. Methods: Using three case examples, a standardized protocol for the clinical and arthroscopic assessment of the painful total elbow arthroplasty is described. This is used to provide a mechanical and microbiological diagnosis of the patient’s pain. Results: There have been no complications resulting from the use of this technique in the three patients described, nor in any other patient to date. Conclusions: The staged protocol described in the present study, utilizing arthroscopic assessment, has refined the approach to the painful total elbow arthroplasty because it directly influences the definitive surgical management of the patient. It is recommended that other surgeons follow the principles outlined in the present study when faced with this challenging problem.