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What is an ulnar nerve decompression at the elbow?

The Ulnar nerve is a nerve which supplies feeling and strength to a portion of the hand and forearm. It may become compressed or trapped as it passes past the elbow. Ulnar nerve decompression at the elbow is performed to free up the nerve. It involves a small cut around the elbow, to free up the compressed nerve.

My Anaesthetic

This procedure will require an anaesthetic.

See About your Anaesthetic information sheet for information about the anaesthetic and the risks involved. If you have any concerns, talk these over with your doctor.

If you have not been given an information sheet, please ask for one.

What are the risks of this specific procedure?

There are some risks/complications with this procedure.

Common risks include:

  • Infection. This will need antibiotics.
  • Bleeding. Bleeding is more common if you have been taking blood thinning drugs such as Warfarin, Aspirin, Clopidogrel (Plavix or Iscover) or Dipyridamole (Persantin or Asasantin).
  • Failure of the symptoms to improve.

Uncommon risks include:

  • Injury to the ulnar nerve resulting in a weak/numb hand.
  • Persistent numbness in the hand/forearm which may be temporary or permanent
  • Damage to the median nerve. This may need re-operation and nerve repair.
  • Damage to the tendons. This may require repair of the tendons.
  • Scar tenderness. This may be permanent.
  • A heart attack because of the stain on the heart or a stroke.
  • Clots in the leg (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) with pain and swelling. Rarely part of this clot may break off and go into the lungs.
  • Small areas of the lung may collapse, increasing the risk of chest infection. This may need antibiotics and physiotherapy.
  • Increase risk in obese people of wound infection, chest infection, heart and lung complications, and thrombosis.

Rare risks include:

  • Death as a result of this procedure is very rare.

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  • Neurosurgical Research Foundation