If ulnar nerve compression does not improve with nonsurgical treatments, or if the condition causes persistent pain and numbness, your doctor may recommend surgery. NYU Langone doctors specialize in several surgical procedures to relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve at the elbow. Your doctor determines which surgery is best for you based on how pinched the nerve is, which can be established during diagnostic testing.
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If the ulnar nerve is mildly compressed, cubital tunnel release surgery can relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve as it passes behind the elbow. The tissue covering the ulnar nerve in this area is cut to relieve the compression. This outpatient procedure is performed with regional anesthesia and does not require an overnight stay in the hospital.
You may need to wear a soft splint or bandage with padding for a few weeks after surgery. Pain and numbness typically subside within a few months of the procedure. Most people can resume light activity, such as walking and daily tasks, immediately after surgery and return to work a few days later.
If the ulnar nerve is significantly compressed, or if it moves out of position after other treatments to relieve pressure, it may be moved to the front of the elbow in a procedure called ulnar nerve anterior transposition surgery. A surgeon relocates the nerve in front of the medial epicondyle, the bony ridge on the inside of the elbow. In this location, the nerve is less prone to compression but can still conduct brain signals up and down the arm. The nerve may be situated directly under the skin, or it may be placed between two muscles.
This outpatient procedure is performed with regional anesthesia and usually does not require an overnight stay in the hospital.
You may need to wear a brace for several weeks after ulnar nerve anterior transposition surgery. Pain, numbness, or tingling in your fingers usually subsides quickly after the procedure, though complete recovery may take several weeks or longer.
Following either type of surgery at NYU Langone, your doctor works with you to design an individualized rehabilitation plan that may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, or both.
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