Graeme Swann is hoping a second operation on his elbow will save his career, and give him a shot at more Ashes glory after all.

On Wednesday morning, Swann heard he must have surgery again to clear away floating bone fragments and ease the pain in his bowling arm and it will rule him out of the three-Test series in New Zealand.

Swann has yet to play against the Kiwis but is upbeat enough to suggest he might yet be able to do so in the return series in England early next summer. "I was trying to go through my whole career without needing surgery again, but the specialist came back and said something needed to be done," he said.

The off-spinner was sent for scans after suffering discomfort in England's tour match defeat in Queenstown, and he added: "It's a huge year for English cricket and a huge year for me, so if this means taking a more active part in it then it's something I have to do."

A likely best case scenario will be a near two-month recovery period after surgery in America next week. More realistically, but still cutting things fine, is the mid-summer Champions Trophy on home soil, but the bigger picture is an unprecedented sequence of home and away Ashes series between July and next January.

Swann, who will be 34 this month, first had a similar operation four years ago and returned to competitive action swiftly on that occasion. He remains encouraged by the effectiveness of his last operation, and accepts he has no choice but to go under the knife again if he wants to play on.

"I know if I don't have the surgery it's more or less curtains," Swann said. "I'm assured the surgery is relatively simple. So touch wood, it will be. I'm buoyed by the success last time I had it done, and my elbow was in a lot worse shape then than it is now. I'm very confident I'll bounce back in a short space of time."

Only last week, he was preparing for this Test series with hopes still high that he might just avoid his worst fear. All that changed while he was bowling 42 overs against a New Zealand XI. "I've struggled on and off for the last four years, but it never really manifested itself into a dire predicament for me," he said.

"But in Queenstown, just before the game, I started to feel an unusual pain that I hadn't felt since before the last operation - and it got worse during that game. I raised my fears with the doctor and (coach) Andy (Flower), and the scans showed there had been deterioration.

"It doesn't seem anywhere near as dire as last time around, when it was like a bomb had gone off in there. But I knew something wasn't right; I couldn't put an extra snap on the ball when I was bowling. I like to turn the ball a lot and I was only 70-80% fit."