Biceps Tendon Tear

I have torn my biceps tendon

You have felt a painful pop in your elbow whilst lifting something heavy or falling on you r outstretched arm. Chances are you have torn the biceps tendon at the front of your elbow.

How does the biceps tendon tear?

It requires an unexpected force against the resistance of biceps muscle contraction. The biceps detaches in the majority of cases from its insertion at the radius (one of the two forearm bones).

How is biceps tendon tear diagnosed?

Next to the patient history of elbow trauma there is the typical finding of the biceps muscle being retracted up the arm (‘Popeye muscle sign’). This is because the muscle has lost its attachment below the elbow and contracts. Often this is paired with a large collection of blood (‘haematoma’). On clinical testing the forearm rotation towards palm up (‘supination’) is very weak. Ultrasound and MRI scan can she the soft tissue damage of tendon tear. Rarely a flake of bone pulls with the tendon of the radius and that can be shown on Xray.

What does the biceps muscle and tendon do?

The biceps muscle has two heads, a long and a short one. They connect into one tendon insertion at a prominence of the radius (radial tuberosity). The main action of the biceps muscle is to rotate the forearm outwards to make the palm facing up (supination). It generates 80% of the overall rotation strength.

Do I have to have my biceps tendon repaired?

Biceps tears usually happen in active and healthy individuals. The majority of those do not want to loose supination strength and the general recommendation is surgical repair.

Surgery for biceps tendon tear

This surgery can be carried out as day surgery. Through a small incision at the front of the elbow the torn tendon end is retrieved and tagged with heavy sutures. These sutures are used to fix the tendon into the pat of the bone where is has torn off.

Preparing for surgical biceps tendon repair

If required we will arrange for a bulk billed pre-admission clinic at the hospital. This is run by a specialist anaesthetist who will gather information and request investigations that are required for safe anaesthesia. Our reception staff will advise of costs, hospital and admission details.

Recovery from surgical biceps tendon repair

At the end of the procedure local anaesthetic will be injected to the surgical field and compression bandage will be placed. The arm will be placed in a shoulder sling. Exercises can be commenced a few days after the procedure and in between the arm can be used for light activities of daily living. Dressings can be removed 10-12 days after the surgery, sutures are internally and absorbable, hence nothing needs to be removed. Full recovery with regaining full range of motion and strength can be expected at the six to eight week mark.