The ulnar nerve runs on the inside of the elbow; when you think you have hit your “funny bone,” you are actually hitting your ulnar nerve. The nerve provides sensation to your little finger and half of your ring finger. This nerve can become pinched in the elbow, particularly when you bend your elbow. Occasionally the ulnar nerve can snap over the bone on the inside of your elbow (medial epicondyle), causing pain and numbness in your little finger and ring finger. When this happens, it is called cubital tunnel syndrome.
Cubital Tunnel Release
A cubital tunnel release is an outpatient procedure done with a general anesthetic in conjunction with a nerve block. This helps provides initial pain relief after your surgery. Your surgeon creates an incision along the inside of your elbow to allow them to view the muscles, blood vessels and nerve. They separate the muscle and soft tissue until they reach the nerve, at which point they will release the structures pinching it – typically bands of soft tissue. This allows the nerve to glide freely in the arm and relieves the pain. Often, your surgeon will also reposition or move the nerve to the top side of the medial epicondyle. This creates less stress on the nerve when your elbow is bent. After surgery, your surgeon will close the incision with stitches, place a bulky dressing over the area, and put your arm in a sling. Typically, you can remove the bandaging 24-48 hours after surgery and can shower at that point. The stitches are removed about 10-14 days after surgery when you will meet with a Physician Assistant or your surgeon to review what was found during surgery. You are able to use the arm as tolerated after that point, but the incision may be sore for up to a few months. Your surgeon will discuss post-surgery restrictions with your family.