Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center
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Cubital Tunnel Syndrome and Ulnar Nerve Release
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is also known as ulnar nerve compression at the elbow, and is another cause of numbness and tingling in the hand, very similar to carpal tunnel syndrome. ulnar nerve damageIn distinction from carpal tunnel syndrome, the numbness and tingling felt with cubital tunnel syndrome is usually felt in the small and ring fingers.

Additional symptoms include pain around the elbow and weakness or muscle wasting around the hand. You may have difficulty holding on to small items or weakness with gripping. The symptoms you feel are similar to those usually described as “hitting your funny bone,” only they last a lot longer.

Your hand and elbow surgeon will likely be able to diagnose cubital tunnel syndrome with a thorough history and focused physical exam. You will likely have X-rays made on the day of your visit as well. Frequently, your doctor may obtain a nerve study, known as a Nerve Conduction Study/Electromyelogram or NCS/EMG, from a neurologist to confirm the diagnosis.

Initial treatment options for cubital tunnel syndrome include physical therapy and elbow bracing. Occasionally, medicines such as anti-inflammatory medications or nerve stabilizing medications may alleviate your pain.

The purpose of this surgery is to relieve the numbness and tingling you feel in your hands. Your hand and elbow surgeon will accomplish this by releasing the constricting bands of tissue that surround the ulnar nerve at the elbow. This is an open surgery, meaning you will have an incision and scar on the inside portion of your elbow. Your surgeon may relocate the nerve to the front of your elbow to prevent it from getting compressed again after the surgery.

This is a day surgery procedure which takes place at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, located in the Texas Medical. You will be seen by an anesthesiologist prior to surgery. You will go to sleep with general anesthesia for the entirety of the surgery. The surgery takes about one hour. When you wake up, you will have a sling and possibly a splint stabilizing your elbow. You will stay in the recovery room until your pain is controlled and you are ready to leave for home.