What is a distal biceps repair?
The biceps muscle is located in the front of the upper arm. It is attached to the shoulder and the elbow by strong bands of fibrous tissue called tendons. These allow the elbow to bend and the forearm to rotate. When the tendon becomes detached, or tears away from the forearm, a distal biceps tendon rupture occurs. The majority of ruptures occur in men primarily in their 40s. When the biceps ruptures, there may be a pop in the front of the arm and elbow area. This can cause pain, weakness and swelling in the upper arm and elbow joint. Dr. James Mazzara, Manchester, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities elbow surgeon, recommends a distal biceps repair when a patient tears the distal biceps tendon.
Surgery helps to restore strength and function and it prevents cramping and retraction of ruptured biceps tendon further up into the arm. (This is called a “Popeye” injury, due to the retraction of the biceps.) If the injury occurs and treatment is delayed, it can be more difficult to perform a distal biceps repair because of scarring and loss of the tendon.
Are you a candidate for distal biceps repair?
There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Mazzara:
You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review with Dr. Mazzara.
You can schedule an office consultation with Dr. Mazzara.
What is done during distal biceps repair surgery?
Dr. Mazzara recommends surgical distal biceps repair soon after the injury occurs. It is typically performed arthroscopically with small incisions, made in the upper forearm, and small instruments operating inside the elbow. The distal biceps tendon stump will be located and repaired back to its attachment site on the radial tuberosity, which is the bone that the biceps normally attaches. Depending on the type of tear, Dr. Mazzara will create a small bone tunnel in the radius and insert the distal biceps into that tunnel so that it heals securely to the bone. The tendon is fixed to the bone with very strong sutures made of Kevlar and a small metal anchor, called an Endobutton.
If the biceps tendon has been injured before and there is no longer a biceps tendon present, a graft from a donor tissue can be used to rebuild the torn biceps tendon. Dr. Mazzara will sew into the native biceps muscle and then sew back into the bone so the biceps muscle will once again flex and rotate the elbow. In some instances, when the biceps may not be repairable back to the radius, Dr. Mazzara may decide to perform a tenodesis where the biceps may be sutured to the tendon next to it called the brachialis. This can also yield excellent results while restoring strength and normal appearance to the arm.
How long is the recovery period after distal biceps tendon repair?
Distal biceps tears take some time to heal properly. The arm will be placed in a sling and then a splint for about six weeks, followed with a physical therapy program to rehabilitate the arm. Resistance exercises, such as lightly contracting the biceps or using elastic bands, may be gradually added to the rehabilitation plan. Light work activities can begin soon after surgery, but heavy lifting and vigorous activity should be avoided for several months until the tendon is completely healed.
For immediate treatment of a torn distal biceps or for more information regarding distal biceps tendon repair, please contact the offices of Dr. James Mazzara, orthopedic elbow surgeon, treating patients in Manchester, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities.