What is a triceps tendon rupture?

Similar to a biceps tendon rupture, a triceps tendon rupture also occurs when the triceps tendon has partially or completely separated from its attachment point. The triceps muscle has three “heads” that emanate from the top of the shoulder and are responsible for stabilizing and straightening the elbow. These muscles merge together as they travel along the posterior (back) upper arm into a single entity that is attached to the olecranon, a bony prominence on the ulna (pinky side forearm bone), by the distal triceps tendon. A distal triceps tendon rupture is an incredibly rare event due to the significant force that is needed to bend the elbow at the same time the triceps muscle is straightening the elbow. 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 triceps tendon rupture.

Triceps Tendon Injury or Rupture

What are the symptoms of a triceps tendon rupture?

Sudden and sharp posterior elbow pain after an injury is commonly reported from individuals with a suspected triceps tendon rupture. A palpable defect may also be felt in the event of a complete triceps tendon rupture. Some other complaints of a triceps tendon rupture include:

  • Difficulty fully straightening the elbow against resistance
  • Swelling and bruising of the posterior upper arm and elbow
  • Hearing or feeling a “pop” at the time of injury

How is a triceps tendon rupture diagnosed?

A suspected triceps tendon rupture is confirmed after Dr. Patel gathers a comprehensive medical history and performs a thorough physical examination. Diagnostic imaging studies, such as x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can help Dr. Patel determine the location and type of triceps tendon rupture as well as evaluate the surrounding elbow structures for any damage.

What is the treatment for a triceps tendon rupture?

If a triceps tendon rupture is suspected, 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, initial treatment with conservative therapies may be considered for patients with a partial triceps tendon tear and not a complete rupture. A combination of rest, ice, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) can mitigate any pain and swelling associated with these conditions. It should be noted that non-surgical treatment of a triceps tendon rupture can result in persistent pain and weakness, muscular cramping, permanent loss of strength, and cosmetic deformity. Therefore, it is highly advised to consult an orthopedic elbow specialist with extensive knowledge and training in treating triceps tendon ruptures to discuss appropriate treatment options.

Surgical treatment:

For patients with complete triceps tendon rupture, or in the event of failed conservative therapy, surgical intervention is time-sensitive to prevent tendon retraction from the development of scar tissue. The triceps tendon is fastened back to its anatomically correct position by one of two surgical methods: 1) sutures that are passed through tunnels created in the ulna or radius 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.

Triceps Tendon Rupture Specialist

Triceps tendon ruptures are rare and are usually caused by a significant force being applied to the bent elbow at the same time the triceps is trying to straighten the arm. Triceps tendon ruptures are most often seen in weight lifters or those with very strenuous job activities. Triceps tendon rupture specialist, Doctor Ronak Mukesh Patel,  provides diagnosis as well as surgical and minimally invasive surgical treatment options for patients in Houston, Sugar Land, and Pearland, TX who have suffered a triceps tendon rupture. Contact Dr. Patel’s team today!