The elbow joint is formed by the upper arm bone (humerus) and two forearm bones (radius and ulna). The biceps muscle, which is used to bend the elbow and rotate the forearm, is attached to the radius by a strong tendon (distal biceps) that crosses the elbow joint. If the distal biceps is injured, it usually tears away from the bone at the front of the elbow. This type of injury can occur during heavy lifting or if the elbow is abruptly forced to straighten.
In addition to immediate pain, a distal biceps tear may cause a popping sensation at the front of the elbow, followed by swelling and bruising. When no longer firmly attached to the bone, the biceps muscle may shorten and visibly bulge, a reverse “Popeye Sign”.
What Does a Distal Biceps Repair Involve?
Treatment for a complete rupture of the distal biceps usually involves surgical repair. Without prompt surgery to reattach the tendon to the bone, forearm-rotation strength and power will be permanently lost. Patients may also experience chronic cramping pain with repetitive arm use.
Christopher C. Schmidt, MD, a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon who performs elbow surgery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, utilizes an advanced, two-incision distal biceps repair technique involving cortical buttons. Dr. Schmidt places the buttons intramedullary at the insertion site of the distal biceps tendon, which can help recreate the anatomic footprint and help restore full supination strength and power. With surgery, the forearm ache and cramping sensation usually resolves.
After surgery, a splint or brace may be worn to protect the distal biceps repair for a short time while it heals. Many patients achieve full motion in four to six weeks and recover full strength and power within three-to-six months.
Consult With an Expert Among Experts
If you’d like to learn more about the latest surgical repair techniques for a distal biceps tear and receive personalized advice from Dr. Schmidt, contact his office today at (877) 471-0935 to request an appointment at one of his three locations in Pittsburgh, PA. Widely respected by both his patients and peers, Dr. Schmidt was selected by his patients as one of Pennsylvania’s Favorite Physicians and elected by his peers as one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s “Best Doctors” and a “Top Doctor,” one of the leading physicians of the world.
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