The bicep muscle is located in your upper arm and aids in your ability to bend your arm at the elbow, to move your forearm, and to stabilize your shoulder.
Your bicep muscle is attached your shoulder and elbow by bicep tendons. Therefore, if your bicep tendon is torn, your arm strength will be reduced, and you won’t be able to successfully complete relevant movements.
If the bicep tendon is torn, it will not grow back properly. Though other muscles allow the elbow to bend some, they cannot compensate for loss of function of the bicep. In particular, rotation motion will be compromised in this scenario. If the tendon is not approached surgically, permanent weakness will result.
The bicep has tendons that attach muscle and bone.
Other muscles of the arm can compensate for an injured tendon so that the majority of function is in tact. However, the arm will become weak over time if the tendon is not surgically repaired. Supination, or the twisting of the forearm will become especially difficult.
Distal bicep tendon ruptures occur as frequently in dominant arms as non-dominant arms, but rupture of the bicep does not occur frequently. The chance of this sort of injury occurring in a man each year is about 1/100,000 and perhaps even lower in women.
When the distal bicep tendon tears, muscle can ball up at the shoulder. Bruising also often occurs at the elbow when the distal bicep tendon tears and is accompanied by a “pop” during rupture. Pain subsides over 1-2 weeks but is severe initially. Other results of the tear may include: swelling (due to the recoiled bicep muscle), physical deformity (due to lack of tendon), and arm weakness.
When the bicep tendon tears, elderly, unhealthy, or inactive patients may want to consider nonsurgical treatment options.
If surgery will be undertaken, it should occur within a few weeks of injury. Otherwise, the bicep muscle will likely scar, making treatment much more difficult. If your bicep tendon was torn outside of this recommended treatment window, there are still surgical options for you. Treatment later than a few weeks after tearing, however, are often less successful.
Dr. Samimi is able re-attach tendon and bone after tears using a minimally invasive single incision approach for which he has had significant training. Using this technique, in addition to being minimally invasive and therefore less painful and risky than many other traditional procedures, this approach is also associated with reduced scarring.
It is rare to have surgical complications with our minimally invasive techniques. When complications do occur, they are temporary. Further, re-rupture after repair is uncommon. In less than 10% of patients, some of these symptoms may occur:
- Lack of feeling in your arm
- Reduced mobility of the arm due to the development of some new bone where the tendon attaches
A cast or splint will keep your arm from moving after surgery. You may be advised to participate in exercises to rehabilitate your arm, but you should be able to rely on a brace. You can engage in light activities but should avoid all heavy lifting during this period. You can expect to be fully recovered in 2-3 months, provided that you comply with our protective strategies during your recovery.