- What Is
What is an ulnar nerve release surgery?
The ulnar nerve is one of the three main nerves in the arm that travel from the neck through a bony protuberance (medial epicondyle) in the elbow, under the muscles of the forearm, down the hand, the side of the palm up to the pinky finger. The ulnar nerve controls most of the hand muscles that carry out fine movements and some bigger forearm muscles that help in making a strong grip.
The ulnar nerve can be constricted at many places, which results in nerve entrapment. The compression pressure on the nerve can cause pain and numbness in various parts of the arm. The compression of the nerve occurs most commonly against the medial epicondyle and is called cubital tunnel syndrome.
Ulnar nerve release is a surgical procedure performed to release the compression on the ulnar nerve and the symptoms caused by the compression of the ulnar nerve.
When is an ulnar nerve release surgery done?
An ulnar nerve release surgery is indicated in patients in the following conditions:
- The most common indication of ulnar nerve release is cubital tunnel syndrome.
- Compression of the ulnar nerve caused following trauma or excessive pressure on the elbow
- Ulnar nerve entrapment due to inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
- Failure of conservative therapy measures
- Functional loss in the hands or fingers
How do you release a trapped ulnar nerve?
Before the surgery
- Prior to the surgery, the doctor will perform a clinical examination, advise blood tests and perform radiological assessment (X-ray, computed tomography [CT], and magnetic resonance imaging [MRI]).
During the surgery
- The procedure is performed using anesthesia.
- There are various surgical techniques and approaches. The choice of approach depends on the site of compression, extent of disease, and surgeon’s discretion. Typically, an incision is made behind the elbow joint. The ulnar nerve is identified, and the course of the nerve is traced. Any soft tissue or bone that is compressing and irritating the nerve is released. Finally, the nerve is left in the groove.
- The procedure can also be performed endoscopically. Endoscopic ulnar nerve release is a less invasive procedure, and the healing is faster. A small incision is made behind the medial epicondyle, through which a scope (a camera with a light source) and surgical instruments are inserted.
After the surgery
- Painkillers and antibiotics would be prescribed after the surgery. The patient is advised to keep the wound dry, gently compressed and elevated after the surgery. Early mobilization of the arm is encouraged because it reduces stiffness.
- The arm may be placed in a sling for a few days postoperatively. Rigorous exercise, heavy lifting, or repetitive tasks involving the arm should be avoided until the surgeon allows it. The surgeon and physiotherapist would recommend an exercise regimen to rehabilitate the arm. Simple analgesia should be taken as required.
- The patient is advised to visit the surgeon or an emergency room (ER) right away if there is any sign of infection (fever, new pain, swelling, warmth, redness, or pus from the operative site), loss of sensation or function.
What are the complications of an ulnar nerve release surgery?
Potential complications of an ulnar nerve release surgery are:
- Incomplete or inadequate decompression of the nerve and/or entrapment at a different location causing recurrence of symptoms
- Scar formation
- Change in nerve position
- Direct injury or stretching injury to the ulnar nerve
- Loss of sensation or function
- Local postoperative hematomas (blood clots)
- Wound infection
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Medscape Medical Reference
Top How Do You Release a Trapped Ulnar Nerve? Related Articles
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA)Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) annually affects one child in every thousand. There are six types of JRA. Treatment of juvenile arthritis depends upon the type the child has and should focus on treating the symptoms that manifest.
Osteoarthritis (OA)Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis caused by inflammation, breakdown, and eventual loss of cartilage in the joints. Also known as degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis can be caused by aging, heredity, and injury from trauma or disease.
OA of the Knee ExercisesLearn about osteoarthritis and exercises that relieve knee osteoarthritis pain, stiffness and strengthen the knee joint and surrounding muscles through this picture slideshow.
Osteoarthritis SlideshowOsteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease most often affecting major joints such as knees, hands, back, or hips. Osteoarthritis symptoms include pain, swelling and joint inflammation.
Osteoarthritis PictureOsteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that is caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more joints. See a picture of Osteoarthritis and learn more about the health topic.
Osteoarthritis QuizHow does osteoarthritis differ from other types of arthritis? Learn about osteoarthritis with this quiz.
Osteoarthritis vs. Osteoporosis Differences and SimilaritiesArthritis is defined as painful inflammation and joint stiffness. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis and the most common cause of chronic joint pain, affecting over 25 million Americans. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that involves the entire joint. Osteoporosis is not a type of arthritis. It is a disease that mainly is caused by a loss of bone tissue that is not limited to the joint areas. It is possible for one person to have both osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
The differences in the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis include; pain, stiffness, and joint swelling, joint deformity, crackle sounds when the joint is moving, and walking with a limp. Osteoporosis is called the "silent disease" because it can progress for years without signs and symptoms before it is diagnosed, severe back pain, bone fractures, height loss, and difficulty or inability to walk. The differences in the causes of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are that osteoarthritis usually is caused by wear and tear on the joints. Osteoporosis usually is caused by one or more underlying problems, for example, calcium and vitamin D deficiencies. Treatment for osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are not the same. There is no cure for osteoarthritis or osteoporosis.
Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid ArthritisOsteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are chronic joint disorders. RA is also an autoimmune disease. OA and RA symptoms and signs include joint pain, warmth, and tenderness. Over-the-counter pain relievers treat both diseases. There are several prescription medications that treat RA.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, as well as other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. The 16 characteristic early RA signs and symptoms include the following.
- Both sides of the body affected (symmetric)
- Joint deformity
- Joint pain
- Joint redness
- Joint stiffness
- Joint swelling
- Joint tenderness
- Joint warmth
- Loss of joint function
- Loss of joint range of motion
- Many joints affected (polyarthritis)
16 Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Symptoms and SignsEarly RA symptoms and signs vary differently from person to person. The most common body parts that are initially affected by RA include the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet, and the knees and hip joints. Joint inflammation causes stiffness. Warmth, redness, and pain may vary in degree.
RA Friendly ExercisesRegular exercise boosts fitness and helps reverse joint stiffness for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Our experts offer helpful exercises to get you started.
RA SlideshowWhat is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? Learn about treatment, diagnosis, and the symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Discover rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes and the best medication for RA and JRA.
RA QuizHow is rheumatoid arthritis different from other forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and gout? Take the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Quiz to rest your RA IQ.
Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. ArthritisArthritis is a general term used to describe joint disease. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of arthritis in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing chronic inflammation.
Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. FibromyalgiaThough rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia have similar symptoms, RA is an autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome. RA symptoms include joint redness, swelling, and pain that lasts more than six weeks. Fibromyalgia symptoms include widespread pain, tingling feet or hands, depression, and bowel irritability. Home remedies for both include stress reduction, exercise, and getting enough sleep.
What Is the Main Cause of Osteoarthritis?Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic degenerative disease of the joints affecting middle-aged and elderly people. It involves the breakdown of cartilage and associated inflammatory changes in the adjacent bone. It is a leading cause of chronic disability, affecting 30 million people in the United States alone.
What Are the Four Stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis?Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by pain and inflammation in joints, typically of the hands and feet. It is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system of the body attacks its own healthy cells, resulting in inflammation of the membrane lining the joints and damage to joint tissue.