Ulnar nerve transposition is a procedure for patients who have a compressed ulnar nerve in their elbow. The ulnar nerve derives from the brachial plexus and gives sensation from the elbow down to the hand. Ulnar nerve entrapment may occur when constant pressure is put on the elbow, like if one leans on his or her elbow on a desk for several hours per day. Patients with a compressed nerve may feel elbow pain or even a tingling sensation in the forearm and fingers.
During the ulnar nerve transposition procedure, the patient may be asked to change into a surgical gown before being put under anesthesia. The elbow and surrounding areas are sterilized using an antiseptic solution so the physician can begin the surgery. The surgeon starts by making a small incision near the inside of the elbow to expose the muscles, ligaments, and soft tissues. Once the area is exposed, the surgeon locates the ulnar nerve. During the transposition phase, the nerve is moved from its original location and away from the medial epicondyle. It may be moved in front of the medial epicondyle, on top of the muscles, or within/under the muscle depending on the patient’s needs. The elbow is then closed and the patient is taken to a room where he or she can recover from the procedure and come off of the anesthesia.
Patients may experience side effects from the anesthesia and feel some pain at the incision site. This is normal for patients and may be alleviated with medication and rest. Although surgical complications are quite rare, patients should alert their Orthopedic and Wellness physician if they suspect a post-operative infection or damage to the ulnar nerve. After the procedure, the patient may be asked to wear a splint on the elbow to keep it in a bent position so it can heal properly. The splint may be worn for up to one month. Following this period, the patient may be asked to attend regular physical therapy sessions in order to regain full range of motion, reduce pain, regain strength, and increase flexibility in the muscles.