Cubital Tunnel Release Surgery

If you've been experiencing moderate to severe pain or numbness in your elbow, little finger, or ring finger, you may have an ulnar nerve entrapment known as cubital tunnel syndrome. This condition is an injury to the ulnar nerve and, if left untreated, can result in severe pain and render your hand unusable. Our Orthopedic Institute of North Texas (OINT) team invites you to explore cubital tunnel release surgery to determine if this procedure could be right for you.

Elbow Anatomy

The elbow is a hinge joint in your arm, consisting of three bones — the humerus, ulna, and radius. The ulnar nerve runs through the cubital tunnel under the medial epicondyle, the bony bump inside your elbow. People often refer to this spot as the funny bone because the nerve is closer to the skin at this point in your elbow, creating a shock-like sensation if you bump it.

The ulnar nerve moves beyond the elbow under muscles on the inside of your forearm to your hand, then down the inside of your palm to your pinky finger. When the nerve enters your hand, it travels through another tunnel called Guyon's canal. The ulnar nerve controls most of the muscles in your hand for fine motor movements, gives feeling to the pinky finger and half your ring finger, and controls some of the bigger forearm muscles associated with a firm grip.

What Is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome, or ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow, happens when the ulnar nerve in your arm becomes irritated or compressed. The ulnar nerve can be constricted in several areas, including the wrist or collarbone, but it most commonly occurs at the elbow joint. Symptoms include tingling and numbness in the hand and fingers, especially the ring and pinky fingers.

Cubital tunnel syndrome can be relieved without surgery in certain instances. Nonsurgical methods include the use of a brace or a change in activities. If nonsurgical methods fail to improve your symptoms, or you're experiencing pain or muscle weakness, your healthcare provider may recommend cubital tunnel release surgery.

Best Candidates For Cubital Tunnel Release Surgery

Determining factors for cubital tunnel syndrome involve patients who may have the following:

  • Prior dislocations or fractures
  • Bone spurs, arthritis, cysts, or swelling of the elbow joint
  • History of prolonged or repetitive activities that require flexing or bending the elbow

The only way to know for certain if you’re a good candidate for cubital tunnel release surgery is to be evaluated by an orthopedist specializing in elbows. At the Orthopedic Institute of North Texas, one of our orthopedist surgeons will examine your elbow to assess function and pain, which will determine if your diagnosis requires surgery. Your orthopedist may also use an MRI, nerve conduction study, or electromyography (EMG) to evaluate the damage to the nerve.

You should seek treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome to prevent further damage to your elbow if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Elbow pain for an extended length of time
  • Elbow pain that interferes with your daily activities
  • Elbow pain that affects your mental wellness or general health

Cubital Tunnel Release Surgery Procedure In Frisco, Texas

If your symptoms haven't improved with nonsurgical methods, the ulnar nerve is severely compressed, or the compression is causing muscle damage or weakness, your orthopedist may recommend surgery. Cubital tunnel release surgery involves cutting and dividing the ligament roof of the cubital tunnel to relieve pain. This procedure increases the tunnel size, decreasing the pressure on the ulnar nerve. It is like unzipping a tight jacket, allowing more room for the nerve to breathe.

Cubital tunnel surgery is an outpatient surgery; you'll only be admitted to the hospital for the day. Upon arrival, you will have your vitals examined and speak with the anesthesiologist about using general anesthesia to put you to sleep for the procedure. A small incision will be made on the inside of your elbow to reach the ulnar nerve. After surgery, the ligament will heal with new tissue growth over the division.

Cubital Tunnel Release Surgery

Cubital Tunnel Release Surgery Recovery

After surgery, you are in a soft dressing for two weeks. During this time, the only restriction is no heavy lifting. After two weeks, sutures are removed, and you are allowed to lift as much as you can tolerate. Our goal is for you to not have to see a physical therapist in the recovery process.

Vikas Patel, M.D.

Shoulder & Elbow Orthopedic Surgeon

Vikas Patel, MD, was his high school's Valedictorian and graduated cum laude in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He earned his medical degree with scholarships at The University of Texas Medical Branch, where he volunteered at a free clinic and graduated in the top of his class. His orthopedic surgery residency was at Louisiana State University Health Science Center in New Orleans, followed by a shoulder and elbow reconstruction fellowship at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.

Dr. Patel is a recognized member of several medical associations and has practiced in Texas and California. He has contributed to orthopedic literature and is actively involved in research on upper extremity conditions.

Specializing in shoulder and elbow surgery, Dr. Patel also performs wrist and hand procedures, treating a variety of conditions with both surgical and non-surgical approaches.

Contact Dr. Vikas Patel, M.D. At The Orthopedic Institute Of North Texas Today

If you or a loved one has been experiencing elbow pain with little to no relief from nonsurgical methods, it's time to consult with the experts at the Orthopedic Institute of North Texas. You can contact us at 972-591-6468, email us at for additional information on your inquiries or questions, or book an appointment online. We specialize in solving your orthopedic pain at all four locations in North Texas.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Restrictions After Cubital Tunnel Release Surgery?

Following a cubital tunnel release surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will restrict you from using your hand or lifting anything heavy. You should have a follow-up appointment two weeks after your surgery to assess the healing process. At your follow-up assessment, your orthopedic surgeon will review exercises you can perform to increase strength and motion and discuss when you can start adding more motion and use of your hand.

How Long Does It Take A Cubital Tunnel Release Surgery Incision To Heal?

Healing time varies by patient, but most people can expect to have a fully healed incision from cubital tunnel release surgery within several weeks. The incision may sometimes take a few months to heal completely. Although you'll notice marked improvement immediately following the procedure, it may take up to six months to a year for symptoms like tingling or numbness to go away entirely.

How Long After Cubital Tunnel Release Surgery Can I Use My Hand?

You can use your hand immediately after surgery. The goal is for you to move your hand, wrist, and elbow so that these areas do not become stiff. At your two-week postoperative assessment, your orthopedic surgeon will discuss when you can return to daily activities and increase your activity. You can expect hand strength and grip to return in two to three months, but a full recovery can take up to a year. Be sure to follow your instructions on how much you can use your hand following surgery to ensure proper healing.