Distal Biceps Rupture Biceps Tendon Tear at the Elbow

The biceps muscle is the muscle in the front of your upper arm. It helps to bend the elbow and rotate the forearm. The biceps tendon attaches at the elbow to one of the bones in your forearm known as the radius. The biceps tendon may tear (rupture) at this location as a result of a fall or injury. Tears can be partial or complete. When a complete biceps tendon rupture occurs, it is not able to heal back the bone on its own.

Patients with a distal (at the elbow) biceps rupture have pain and swelling in the front (anterior) aspect of the arm. They may note weakness bending the elbow, or rotating the forearm from palm down to palm up.

Biceps tendon tears that do not involve the full tendon (partial tears), may be treated without surgery to see if pain and function improves. However, surgery is recommended for most tears that involve the entire tendon (complete tears). After 2-3 weeks, the biceps muscle begins to scar and shorten, and surgical repair becomes more difficult. Patients who opt for non-operative treatment of a complete tear may note a permanent loss strength with forearm rotation.

Biceps tendon repair is an outpatient surgery which is performed through a small incision on the front of the arm. The biceps tendon is identified, and re-attached to the bone through a drill hole, or using special instruments call anchors. After surgery, the patient is placed into a sling and lifting activities are avoided until the biceps tendon has begun to heal to bone.

Further information on this injury can be found in this article on the AAOS OrthoInfo website, an orthopaedic resource center providing expert information.