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Distal Biceps Tendon Rupture

What is a rupture of the distal biceps tendon?

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Updated May 27, 2014

Rupture of the distal biceps tendon at the elbow joint is much less common and accounts for less than 5% of biceps tendon ruptures. This injury is also usually found in middle-aged patients, although not always. There is usually some degree of tendinosus, or degenerative changes within the tendon, that predisposes the patient to rupture of the tendon.

The significance of a distal biceps tendon rupture is that without surgical repair, patients who experience complete rupture of the distal biceps tendon will notice loss of strength at the elbow. The strength will affect both the ability to bend the elbow against resistance, and the ability to turn the forearm to the palm-up position against resistance (for example, turning a doorknob or screwdriver).

What are the symptoms of distal biceps tendon rupture?
Distal biceps tendon rupture is characterized by sudden pain over the front of the elbow after a forceful effort against a flexed elbow. Usually the patient will hear a snap and have pain where the tendon rupture occurs. Swelling and bruising around the elbow are also common symptoms of distal biceps tendon rupture.

What is the treatment of distal biceps tendon rupture?
Most patients will experience benefit if the biceps tendon is repaired surgically. If the tear is incomplete, or if the patient is very low-demand (not active), then surgery may not be needed. However, most patients who want more normal use of their arm will benefit from surgery to repair the ruptured tendon to the bone.

Sources:

Salvo J. "Biceps Tenon Rupture" Updated: Aug 22, 2012.

Scanlon, MW, et al. "Management of Distal Biceps Tendon Rupture" Osteo trauma care 2002; 10: 160-166.

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