Treatments & Conditions | Hand Microsurgery in Erie, PA

Biceps Tendon Tear at the Elbow

Your biceps tendons attach the biceps muscle to bones in the shoulder and in the elbow. If you tear the biceps tendon at the elbow, you will lose strength in your arm and be unable to forcefully turn your arm from palm down to palm up. Once torn, the biceps tendon at the elbow will not grow back to the bone and heal. Other arm muscles make it possible to bend the elbow fairly well without the biceps. However, they cannot perform all the functions, especially the motion of rotating the forearm from palm down to palm up. A few symptoms of a biceps tendon tear at the elbow incude:

  • Swelling in the front of the elbow
  • Visible bruising in the forearm and elbow
  • Weakness in bending of the elbow
  • Weakness in twisting the forearm
  • A bulge in the upper part of the arm created by the recoiled, shortened biceps muscle
  • A gap in the front of the elbow created by the absence of the tendon

The main cause of a distal biceps tendon tear is a sudden injury. These tears are rarely associated with other medical conditions. Biceps tendon tears can be either partial or complete. In most cases, tears of the distal biceps tendon are complete. This means that the entire muscle is detached from the bone and pulled toward the shoulder. Other arm muscles can substitute for the injured tendon, usually resulting in full motion and reasonable function. Left without surgical repair, however, the injured arm will have a 30% to 40% decrease in strength, mainly in twisting the forearm. 

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