How is ulnar nerve decompression performed?
Dr. Patel will review several factors, such as the patient’s age, medical history, job duties, and current symptoms to determine the best surgical approach. Ulnar nerve decompression is performed as an outpatient procedure. An incision is created over the medial epicondyle for Dr. Patel to gain access to the ulnar nerve. When the ulnar nerve is identified, the surrounding bony and soft tissue structures are methodically examined for any abnormalities. The ligamentous sleeve that forms part of the cubital tunnel is then cut and divided to increase the size of this tunnel. Any other sites of nerve compression are systematically released until complete nerve decompression is achieved. This surgical technique is known as a cubital tunnel release and is most appropriate for patients with a stable ulnar nerve that experience mild to moderate symptoms.
How is ulnar nerve transposition performed?
Dr. Patel may determine an ulnar nerve transposition is more appropriate than ulnar nerve decompression. This is typically for severe cases, nerve instability or revision (redo) surgeries. Once the ulnar nerve is identified and exposed, the nerve is repositioned in a more anterior (front) location of the elbow. The nerve can be situated under the muscle (submuscular), within the muscle belly (intermuscular), or on top of the muscle under the skin (subcutaneous). Repositioning of the ulnar nerve prevents it from becoming compressed or entrapped in the cubital tunnel.
What is the recovery period like after ulnar nerve decompression or transposition?
The recovery period is not greatly impacted by the specific surgical technique performed as both methods result in a similar recovery time. However, the recovery process can be significantly affected by the patient’s willingness to comply with the post-operative care instructions provided by Dr. Patel. Most patients can expect a full recovery in approximately 2 to 3 months. Patients in Sugar Land, Pearland, and the Houston, Texas area can anticipate the following:
- A splint is applied immediately following surgery and remains for 7 to 10 days.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are usually sufficient to manage any post-operative pain and/or inflammation. If these symptoms still persist with over-the-counter pain medications, Dr. Patel can prescribe stronger pain medication to be taken as directed.
- Physical therapy can be expected to begin within 5 to 7 days after surgery. The goal of physical therapy is to restore mobility by improving strength and range of motion to the forearm and hand muscles.
- In the event of severe ulnar nerve entrapment, occupational therapy may be added to regain fine motor skills.