A cubital tunnel release is a day-case operation on the elbow that we often perform with the patient awake under regional anaesthesia. (read more about awake shoulder and elbow surgery here) The procedure usually takes under half an hour to perform. After surgery you will be in a bulky bandage over your dressing that’s covering the scar. You will go home in a temporary sling which is kept on until the regional anaesthesia block wears off and the arm comes back to life. We keep the bandages on for 5 days but encourage using the elbow, wrist and hand as soon as possible and as much as the bandage allows.
After 5 days you can remove the bandages at home and start formal physiotherapy to get the arm moving. There are no restrictions to rehabilitation. After 2 weeks we see you in clinic to remove the sutures and usually see you again at 3 months for final follow-up. Return to activity is as soon as pain allows but we warn patients not to drive with bandages or wound dressings.
In cases where the symptoms are intermittent we expect the shooting pain and pins and needles to settle soon after surgery. If the nerve has been compressed for a long time and symptoms were constant before the operation they may be much slower to recover. Muscle wasting doesn’t recover but surgery prevents further muscle wasting so prevents weakness from getting worse. This is why we encourage early surgery for this condition.
In the first week after surgery it is important to keep the hand elevated to prevent swelling of the fingers. In this video we demonstrate how to elevate your hand after surgery.
Further information on surgery (ulnar nerve decompression) for cubital tunnel syndrome can be found here at aboutmyhealth.org.