Elbow Problems

Biceps Tear

The majority of patients need surgery to repair their tear. We make sure that we operate as soon as possible to allow for faster recovery. Mr Wijeratna has an excellent success rate, with no repair failures.

What is the treatment for a distal biceps tendon tear?

Treatment without surgery should always be considered. This consists of pain killing tablets, anti-inflammatory medications and physiotherapy. Treatment without surgery will lead to approximately 30% loss of elbow flexion strength. If the injury occurs in the non-dominant arm then patients can often cope with a loss of strength. If the patient does not have a manual job or physical hobbies then surgery can sometimes be avoided.

Tendon repair surgery is a good treatment for a distal biceps tendon tear. The operation removes portions of the degenerate tendon and reattaches the healthy tendon back to bone through a bone tunnel. This is usually done with one or two small incisions but occasionally a larger incision is needed. The risks and complications of this surgery can be discussed at your outpatient appointment.

6 Weeks After Distal Biceps Tear Repair 6 Weeks After Distal Biceps Tear Repair

Scars 6 Weeks After Distal Biceps Tear Repair Scars 6 Weeks After Distal Biceps Tear Repair

X-Ray After Distal Biceps Tear Repair X-Ray After Distal Biceps Tear Repair

The majority of patients that have surgery are happy with their outcome. It is always preferable to perform surgery as soon as possible after the injury has occurred.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • A distal biceps tendon tear usually happens when there is a sudden injury or lifting up a heavy object. The tear can be a partial tear or a complete tear. The distal biceps tendon is pulled off where it attaches on the forearm bone (radius).

  • Pain is sudden and happens during the activity that causes the injury. Patient’s can often feel a popping or tearing sensation in the upper arm when the injury occurs. Pain is felt over the upper arm and can travel down the forearm. Bruising becomes apparent around the upper forearm after a day or two. Initially it is very sore to move the elbow but this settles with time as the bruising settles. The pain is made worse when trying to lift objects with that arm.

  • A distal biceps tendon tear is usually a clinical diagnosis which a specialist makes after taking a history and performing a clinical examination. An x-ray of the elbow is used to rule out a fracture but sometimes a MRI is needed to confirm the diagnosis if it is not clear.

  • Yes and no. The tendon will never reattach itself to the bone but some people find that their pain improves with time and they are able to get back to all their usual activities.

  • Do avoid or modify activities that aggravate your elbow pain.

    Do take simple over-the-counter painkillers.

    Don’t overuse the arm – for example, gym equipment can make the pain worse.

  • Distal biceps tendon repair surgery is a day-case procedure performed under a regional anaesthetic nerve block which numbs the whole arm. The patient is awake for the duration of the procedure which enables them to recover quicker after surgery. Painkillers are prescribed for when the nerve block wears off. Occasionally some patients are placed into a brace which limits movement for the first 6 weeks to reduce the risk of the repair failing. The patient visits their GP 10 days after surgery for a wound inspection and gentle exercises are allowed to start. Mr Wijeratna sees patients in clinic 6 weeks after surgery to check that the expected improvements are taking place and discharges most patients at this point.

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