How is a distal biceps tendon repair done?
Distal biceps tendon repair is typically done through a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed on an outpatient basis. There are several different procedures to reattach the distal biceps tendon to the forearm bone, so it is important to see the orthopedic specialists at The Shoulder Clinic of Idaho to determine which method is best for each individual tear.
One method for reattaching the tendon is through a single incision in the front of the elbow. Another approach involves two incisions, one at the front of the elbow and a second incision on the side of the forearm near the attachment site of the distal biceps tendon to the forearm bone – the radius. Typically, the tendon repair involves reattaching the distal biceps tendon with stitches through holes drilled in the radius bone, or by using small metal implants called suture anchors or cortical buttons.
If it has been several months since the initial distal biceps tendon tear, or if the tendon has retracted into the arm and will not stretch enough to reach the reattachment site in the forearm, a graft may be necessary. During this type of distal biceps tendon repair, a graft obtained from cadaver tissue, or from the leg, using a hamstring tendon, may be used to rebuild the torn distal biceps tendon. The graft is sewn into the biceps muscle and then sewn back to the bone so the biceps muscle will once again flex and rotate the elbow. Although this is a more involved procedure, it can still result in excellent function for more challenging tears and retracted tendon repairs. Fortunately, the orthopedic surgeons at The Shoulder Clinic of Idaho have extensive experience in treating distal biceps ruptures, and are fellowship trained to perform this relatively uncommon and complex surgery.
What is the recovery like after distal biceps tendon repair?
All distal biceps tendon tears that have been repaired surgically will take time to heal properly. Patients in Boise, Meridian, Nampa, and the surrounding communities of the Treasure Valley can expect the following after a distal biceps tendon repair:
- Patients are placed in a sling with a soft dressing.
- Some patients – depending on the repair type and degree of retraction – may require a brace temporarily to protect the biceps tendon following the repair.
- Physical therapy will begin immediately to regain motion of the elbow and may be done by the patient themselves or guided by a physical therapist.
- After six weeks, strengthening exercises will be added to the physical therapy regimen and functional exercises to rehabilitate the arm will begin.
- Resistance exercises may be gradually added to the rehabilitation plan such as lightly contracting the biceps using elastic bands.
- Heavy lifting and vigorous exercises should be avoided for several months following surgery.
- Most patients can expect a full functional recovery between four and six months following surgery, at which time the orthopedic specialists at The Shoulder Clinic of Idaho will assess them for potential release to full, normal, and unrestricted activities.
To learn more about distal biceps tendon repair, or if you have a chronic biceps tendon tear and would like to be evaluated for this specialized surgery, please contact the orthopedic elbow specialists at The Shoulder Clinic of Idaho, serving patients in Boise, Meridian, Nampa, and the surrounding communities of the Treasure Valley.