Bicep Tendon Tear at Elbow

The biceps muscle, located in the front of the upper arm allows you to bend the elbow and rotate the arm. Biceps tendons attach the biceps muscle to the bones in the shoulder and in the elbow.

Biceps tear can be complete or partial. Partial biceps tendon tears will not completely break the tendon. Complete tendon tears will break the tendon into two parts.

Biceps tendon tears at the elbow: Although two tendons attach the biceps muscle to the bone at the shoulder, only one tendon attaches it to the elbow. This is known as the distal biceps tendon. Tears of the distal biceps tendon are usually complete and the muscle is separated from the bone. Tears of the distal biceps tendon most often result from a sudden injury or lifting a heavy object.

The most common symptom is a sudden, severe pain at the elbow. At times, you may hear a "pop". Other symptoms include swelling, visible bruising, weakness in elbow, and trouble turning your arm palm or palm down. A bulge referred to as a "Popeye Muscle," may also appear in your arm, because the tendon is no longer holding the muscle in place properly.

Biceps tendon tear is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms, medical history, and physical examination. During the physical examination, your doctor will look for a gap in the front of the elbow. Your doctor will diagnose a partial tear by asking you to bend your arm and tighten the biceps muscle. You may have pain if there is a partial tear. X-rays may be taken to rule out other conditions causing shoulder and elbow pain. Using an MRI scan your doctor can know whether tear is partial or complete.

Biceps tears almost always require reattachment of the tendon back to bone. This helps restore both form and function of the muscle. The surgery is performed through a small incision on the forearm. The torn tendon is found and cleaned. Its is then reattached to bone with sutures, drill holes, and fixation devices.

Complications are rare and may include numbness and weakness in the forearm, formation of new bone, limited movement, and re-tearing may occur.

  • AAOS
  • Mid America Orthopaedic Association
  • AOSSM
  • AANA
  • A Nation in Motion