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What is cubital tunnel release?

Cubital tunnel release alleviates the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome—a condition that occurs when the ulnar nerve is pinched in one of several locations in the back of the elbow. When the pressure becomes severe enough to disturb the way the nerve works, you can experience numbness, tingling and pain in your elbow, forearm, hand and fingers.

Types of treatment

Sometimes the most effective treatments for cubital tunnel syndrome are nonsurgical self-care remedies, such as:

  • Reducing or stopping any activity that aggravates your condition, such as bending or placing persistent pressure on your elbow
  • Splint or foam elbow pad worn at night to limit movement and reduce irritation
  • Elbow pad to protect against chronic irritation from hard surfaces
  • Anti-inflammatory medications

If these remedies aren't effective, surgery might be necessary.

What to expect

In order to determine a specific treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome, your doctor will evaluate:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history
  • Extent of the condition
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

In addition to acquiring your complete medical history, your orthopedist will perform a thorough physical examination and conduct diagnostic procedures such as:

  • Nerve conduction test—Determines how fast signals travel down the ulnar nerve and can detect areas of compression or constriction.
  • Electromyogram (EMG)—Evaluates nerve and muscle function, concentrating on the forearm muscles controlled by the ulnar nerve. If the muscles fail to function properly, there may be damage to the ulnar nerve.

If surgery is required, it will be an outpatient procedure where your orthopedic surgeon cuts open the cubital tunnel to relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve. After this procedure, the cubital tunnel heals and new tissue is formed. The extra space allows the ulnar nerve to pass through easily.

If the compression is more severe, the surgeon can reposition the ulnar nerve along a new path to prevent it from compression in the future. If the nerve is compressed in more than one area, multiple sections will need to be redirected. This procedure is called the ulnar nerve anterior transposition.

Our physicians can treat conditions in any one of the 27 bones in the human hand, as well as other problems that affect the hand and wrist.

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