What is cubital tunnel syndrome?
This is one of the ‘peripheral compression neuropathies’, a number of syndromes that result from compression of nerves outside the central nervous system. Cubital tunnel syndrome is cause by compression of the ulnar nerve near the elbow, as it passes through an anatomical region called the 'cubital tunnel'. The ulnar nerve is one of the most important nerves in the arm/hand as it supplies a number of arm and hand muscles vital for function, and sensation to the skin.
This syndrome, ulnar nerve compression, results in altered sensation in the little and ring fingers and adjacent side of the hand, there may also weakness and a deformity of the fingers (the fingers may appear to be curling up). Fine movements of the hand may be affected as this nerve supplies many small hand muscles.
What is CUBITAL TUNNEL syndrome caused by?
There are a number of recognised bone or soft tissue factors that can result in excessive compression or stretching of the ulnar nerve and give rise to the syndrome. Repetitive activities, nearby injuries, arthritis in the adjacent elbow joint, or other abnormal structures that may develop in the area can all cause compression and damage to this important nerve. Dr Ihsheish can assess your symptoms clinically, and may also use nerve conduction studies and radiological imaging to help diagnose the syndrome and work out causative factors.
How is CUBITAL TUNNEL SYNDROME managed?
Ultimately the nerve compression will need to be relieved. Less severe cases may improve with non surgical measures such as activity modification, however surgical decompression is generally required for more advanced cases to avoid permanent nerve damage and muscle weakness/sensory loss. The surgery is called cubital tunnel release and is done in the operating theatre. This will relieve the compression on the ulnar nerve and allow it to recover, the timing and amount of recovery generally mirrors the severity and duration of compression.
In most individuals this is day surgery and you will be allowed to leave hospital the same day, and will be followed up in two weeks for a wound check. Dr Ihsheish generally uses absorable sutures and so no suture removal is required.
Dr Ihsheish will discuss with you the recovery phase that is expected, but it is likely that it will involve physiotherapy and some reduction in your normal activities while the wound heals.