What are the signs of a distal biceps tendon tear at the elbow?
A distal biceps tendon tear at the elbow causes sharp, sudden pain when bending the elbow and is accompanied by a popping sensation. Patients may notice a change in the appearance of the arm (the biceps muscle moves toward the shoulder) or the appearance of a hematoma (bruise) on the inner side of the elbow and forearm.
This condition can occur after a fall or a sudden contraction. If it is unclear whether a tear has occurred, an MRI must be performed within two to three days. Distal biceps tendon tears are considered urgent cases and must be treated within the first several weeks following the injury.
If a decision is made not to operate on the tear, either due to the patient’s sedentary lifestyle or in cases of recurrent tears, there are alternative options available that provide relief.
- Physiotherapy for several weeks
If the decision is made to operate, it is extremely important that the surgery be performed within three weeks of when the tear occurred. The operation involves using a special anchor to reattach the tendon to the bone.
About the procedure
- Outpatient procedure
- Open incision needed
- Length of procedure: 60 to 90 minutes
- General anesthesia – the patient is asleep during the procedure.
- Delicate surgery with risk of damage to blood vessels and nerves Must be performed by an elbow specialist
The patient must be escorted home after the procedure. The elbow must be completely immobilized for three weeks post surgery. A brace is placed on the elbow immediately after surgery.
- Progressive mobilization is possible approximately four weeks post operation (a protective splint must be worn for three more weeks).
- Progressive biceps strengthening starts seven to eight weeks post operation.
- Resumption of regular activities after four to five months, as tolerated by the patient
- Success rate: 90% (return to normal elbow function)
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Dr. Marc Beauchamp: the doctor for shoulder and elbow pain