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 ring and little fingers. When this happens, it’s called cubital tunnel syndrome.
Cubital Tunnel Release
A cubital tunnel release is an outpatient procedure done with a general anesthetic and a nerve block. This helps provides initial pain relief after your surgery. Your surgeon makes an incision along the inside of your elbow to view the muscles, blood vessels and nerve. They separate the muscle and soft tissue until they reach the nerve, and then 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 the nerve on 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, apply a bulky dressing, and put your arm in a sling. Typically, you can remove the bandaging 24-48 hours after surgery and can shower. The stitches are removed about 10-14 days after surgery when you meet with a Physician Assistant or your surgeon to review what was found during surgery. You can use your arm as tolerated after that, but the incision may be sore for up to a few months. Your surgeon will discuss post-surgery restrictions with your family.