At Palm Beach Hand to Shoulder, we are experienced in diagnosing and treating ruptures of the distal biceps tendon.
On the front of the arm, attached to our forearm bone through a tendon, is an important muscle known as the biceps. This muscle assists us in bending our elbow and rotating our forearm. But if the tendon holding the muscle in place is injured, we experience weakness and pain, and lose our ability to engage our strength and turn our forearm. These ruptures of the distal biceps tendon are almost always caused by a sudden injury to the elbow and require surgery within a specific period of time for a full recovery.
At Palm Beach Hand to Shoulder, we are experienced in diagnosing and treating ruptures of the distal biceps tendon. To schedule a consultation, confirm your diagnosis, and finalize a treatment plan, please call (561) 746-7686 or submit an online appointment request form.
Distal biceps ruptures happen most commonly in men between the ages of 40 and 60. The rupture is almost always caused by a sudden injury to the elbow, which occurs after the patient forcefully lifts their arm in such a way that the elbow is forced straight with the forearm turned palm up. Lifting oversized objects is one way the injury may occur.
When injured, patients typically experience a sharp pain at their front elbow crease, as well as a visible deformity caused by the retracting muscle. Considerable swelling and bruising may develop. Some people may also hear a “pop” caused by the tendon separating from the bone.
Surgery, specifically a distal biceps insertion, will be needed to repair the rupture. Only through surgery will patients regain elbow flexion strength and strength while turning the forearm, which are necessary for routine movements and tasks.
It is generally recommended that patients undergo repair of this injury in a timely fashion. Beyond 6 weeks from the time of injury, it can be very difficult if not impossible to reattach the torn and retracted tendon.
The surgery consists of making an incision over the insertion point, retrieving and freshening up the tendon, and securing it to bone with an implant. After surgery, you will be placed into a hinged elbow brace that protects the repaired tendon.
Following surgery, you will not be allowed any active forearm rotation into the palm-up position for 6 weeks. You also will not be able to lift anything heavier than a cup of coffee for 3 months after the surgery.
As part of your care, I will provide home exercises that will prevent elbow or forearm stiffness while protecting the repair. Many patients also benefit from physical therapy. PT will not take place before the 6-week mark of your recovery, and typically is delayed further to around 12 weeks.
While the injury can interfere with a patient’s quality of life, outcomes of distal biceps repair are generally favorable. Some of the risks of surgery include forearm stiffness, injury to the nerve that supplies feeling along the thumb side of the forearm, or injury to the nerve that allows finger and wrist extension. However, most patients make a full functional recovery and are back to full use of the elbow at the 5 to 6-month mark.