Biceps Tendon Repair
About biceps tendon tears
The biceps muscle attaches to the bones in the shoulder and at the elbow with tendons. A biceps tendon tear may be complete, where the tendon is torn in two; or partial where the tendon is not completely detached.
• The proximal biceps tendon. The tendon that attaches at the shoulder has two heads – the short head and the long head. The proximal biceps tendon attaches to the shoulder at the labrum, a tight rim of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket to hold the head of the upper arm bone in its socket. A tear of the proximal biceps tendon is the most common tear.
• The distal biceps tendon. The biceps tendon at the elbow attaches to the upper arm bone. This type of tear is uncommon.
What causes biceps tendon tears?
Injury and overuse are the two primary causes. A fall on an outstretched arm or heavy lifting can cause a tear. Overuse tears develop over time with repetitive use that wears down and frays the tendon. With age many shoulder conditions, including tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries and shoulder impingement can stress the biceps tendon and result in a tear. Damage to the biceps tendon can cause damage to other parts of the shoulder.
Treatment for distal biceps tears
Distal biceps tears generally occur in active middle-aged men due to a sudden injury. Symptoms include a sudden, sharp and painful tearing sensation, followed by chronic pain, weakness and loss of function. Nonsurgical treatment with rest, ice, and over the counter medication can relieve symptoms and improve function. However, nonoperative treatment often results in loss of strength and endurance. For this reason, early surgery, within the first 2-3 weeks after the injury, may be recommended to regain full strength and motion. Delaying surgery can allow the muscle to scar and make it impossible to restore full function with surgery.
Post-surgical rehabilitation is important to restore full function and strength.
Treatment for proximal biceps tears
The most common injury is to the long head of the proximal biceps tendon. Surgery is rarely necessary when the long head of the biceps tendon is torn. Nevertheless, athletes and people who depend on their shoulders for manual labor may need surgery to achieve full recovery. Surgery may also be recommended when the symptoms of a partial tear are not relieved with conservative management.
Initially this type of tear will be treated with conservative management including over the counter pain medication, rest, icing. This should relieve symptoms and improve function. When chronic pain fails to resolve with conservative management, or the patient enjoys an active lifestyle, surgery may be recommended.
Surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon
The goal of surgery is to reattach the torn tendon to the bone. There are several types of surgery, some of which are arthroscopic minimally invasive surgery. The choice of surgical procedure depends upon the location of the tear, the severity of the tear and the type of tear. Most patients who undergo surgery for a biceps tendon tear will regain strength and full range of motion. The surgery is safe and has a low risk of complications.
Your Ortho Illinois orthopedic surgeon will discuss your options with you based on a complete assessment of your injury, symptoms and needs. Post-surgical rehabilitation is essential to restore full function and strength.
Contact Ortho Illinois to schedule a consultation and learn about all your options. Delaying is not an option.