What is a distal biceps tendon rupture?

The biceps is a muscle with two bellies that are found along the anterior (front) upper arm and are anchored to the radial tuberosity, a bony prominence on the radius bone (thumb side forearm bone), by the distal biceps tendon. The biceps muscle is responsible for flexion of the elbow in addition to rotation of the wrist and forearm. A traumatic event can result in the separation of the distal biceps tendon from the radial tuberosity. The partial or complete separation of this tendon is known as a biceps tendon rupture. Participants in high-impact sports, such as football and weight-lifting, or laborers are most vulnerable to suffering a biceps tendon rupture. Dr. Ronak Mukesh Patel, orthopedic elbow specialist serving patients in Sugar Land, Pearland, and the Houston, Texas area, has the knowledge and understanding, as well as substantial experience in treating patients who have experienced a distal biceps tendon rupture.

What are the symptoms of a distal biceps tendon rupture?

Patients with a suspected biceps tendon rupture often complain of sharp and sudden elbow pain that begins after lifting an unusually heavy object. Some other common complaints of a biceps tendon rupture include:

  • Difficulty with rotating the forearm and bending (flexing) the elbow
  • Weakness of the affected elbow
  • Feeling or hearing a “pop” with heavy object lifting
  • “Popeye muscle”: A noticeable bulge-like deformity may be seen along the anterior upper arm. This is due to the separation of the biceps tendon so it is no longer pulling the biceps muscle taut.

How is a biceps tendon rupture diagnosed?

A suspected biceps tendon rupture is confirmed after Dr. Patel gathers a comprehensive medical history and performs a thorough physical examination. Diagnostic imaging studies, such as an MRI, or x-rays if bone involvement is suspected, can help Dr. Patel determine the location and type of biceps tendon rupture as well as evaluate the surrounding structures within the elbow for damage.

What is the treatment for a biceps tendon rupture?

If a biceps tendon rupture is suspected, especially at the elbow, immediate medical attention is strongly suggested due to the time-sensitive nature of surgical treatment.

Non-surgical treatment:

While non-surgical treatment for this injury is rarely recommended, especially for distal biceps tendon tears, initial treatment with conservative therapies may be considered for patients with a partial tear or frayed biceps tendon. A combination of rest, ice, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) can mitigate any pain and swelling associated with the partial tear. It should be noted that non-surgical treatment of a distal biceps tendon rupture can result in persistent pain and weakness, muscular cramping, permanent loss of strength, loss of use, and cosmetic deformity. Therefore, it is highly advised to consult Dr. Ronak Mukesh Patel, who has extensive knowledge and training in treating biceps tendon ruptures to discuss appropriate treatment options.

Surgical treatment:

For patients with a complete distal biceps tendon rupture, or in the event of failed conservative therapy for a partial tear, surgical intervention is time-sensitive to prevent tendon retraction and the development of scar tissue. Distal biceps tendon surgery for this injury involves fastening the tendon back to its anatomically correct position by one of two surgical methods: 1) sutures that are passed through tunnels created in the bone, or 2) attaching the remaining healthy tendon with special surgical anchors that are secured within the bone. The minimally invasive technique utilized frequently decreases the amount of time needed to recover allowing patients to return to their normal daily activities faster.

Distal Biceps Tendon Rupture Specialist

If you play golf, lift weights or perform activities with forceful downward motions of the arm and elbow, you may be at risk of tearing your distal biceps tendon in the elbow. Distal biceps tendon ruptures should be treated immediately after the injury. Distal biceps tendon tear specialist, Doctor Ronak Mukesh Patel,  provides diagnosis as well as immediate surgical and minimally invasive treatment options for patients in Houston, Sugar Land, and Pearland, TX who have suffered a distal biceps tear. Contact Dr. Patel’s team today!