How is decompression in situ performed for ulnar neuropathy?

Updated: Jun 08, 2018
  • Author: Charles F Guardia, III, MD; Chief Editor: Nicholas Lorenzo, MD, MHA, CPE  more...
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Tourniquet control is employed to facilitate visualization of the nerve. The ulnar nerve is identified proximally. The medial intermuscular septum is released; in some cases, it may be advisable to excise part of the thickened distal medial intermuscular septum to prevent kinking.

The cubital tunnel retinaculum is sharply divided in a proximal-to-distal direction. The ulnar nerve is exposed as it passes between the two heads of the flexor carpi ulnaris. The fascia over the flexor carpi ulnaris is incised, and the nerve is exposed as it passes through the muscle. The deep flexor-pronator aponeurosis is released. Neurolysis is not necessary.

The elbow is taken through its range of motion (ROM), and the ulnar nerve is examined for subluxation; if subluxation is noted, medial epicondylectomy or decompression with anterior transposition should be considered. The tourniquet is dropped, and hemostasis is obtained. Subcutaneous and skin layers are closed. A simple soft compressive dressing is applied. Postoperatively, no or only minimal immobilization is needed, and early active use of the extremity is encouraged.

Some, out of concern over possible resultant subluxation and new compression, believe that the nerve should not be decompressed proximally. [172] The risk of these adverse outcomes can be greatly reduced by limiting the decompression distal to a line drawn from the medial epicondyle to the tip of the olecranon. Proximal decompression is recommended when compression is secondary to a hypertrophied medial head of the triceps or to a snapping of the medial head of the triceps with elbow flexion.

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