The procedure | Ulnar Nerve Compression release

A compression of the nerve running through the tunnel in the elbow is commonly known as the “tennis elbow”. The nerve there provides sensation to the side of the hand (little and ring finger) as well as movement to a part of the hand. At the elbow the Ulnar nerve is very sensitive to pressure. This may result in loss of sensitivity and an involuntary bending of the two fingers on the side of the hand. Depending on the level of complaints, treatment consists of surgically opening the tunnel in which it runs.

Where will I be operated?

The operation will be performed in the fully equipped operating theatre at the Radetzky villa.

What can I expect of the operation?

The operation will be performed under local or regional (arm block) anaesthetic and will take approximately 30 minutes. Your surgeon will always see you before the operation and will talk you through the steps. The procedure will start with prepping and draping of your arm and hand. Markings will be made on your elbow and you are asked to elevate your arm in order to reduce the amount of blood inside. Then a band around your upper arm will inflate tightly to prevent blood from running through your arm for a short period. While you will not feel any pain during the procedure, you will be able to experience movements, pressure or changes in temperature. Your surgeon will use a precise electric devise to stop any bleeding that may occur and will use a suture to close the wound.

What are the risks?

Ulnar tunnel release is considered to be a low risk procedure. The most common complications are postoperative bleeding, infection, or scar reactions. In some cases this may lead to prolonged recovery. Support by hand therapy may be needed. Luckily these complications are very rare.

What can I expect after the operation?

Your arm will be bandaged for 24 hours, during which time regular elevation – with your hand being higher than the elbow – is wise. When the anaesthetic wears off you may experience some slight discomfort. In the first few days healing will include some swelling and (variably) some restricted movements. These should however gradually disappear, as you are encouraged to use your hand as normal as possible.

What will the scars be like?

The scar will run on the outside of your elbow. It will be slightly red for the first few months. Eventually the colour will even out. Typically a scar will take one year to fully mature and in the majority of cases the scar, although present, should not be on the foreground anymore by that time.

How long before I can resume my life?

Most people manage to return to light activities in the first few days after surgery. At one to two weeks after surgery a follow-up appointment will be made for you at the Radetzky villa, where the wound will be inspected. From then on you are allowed to do everything again. However, please listen to your body though; pain is a protective mechanism, so if certain movements are painful please do not overdo them.

What is good to know about the long term?

Although life goes on, it is very uncommon for complaints to reoccur. You can therefore expect the effect of this procedure to last for a long time.

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