Learn about some of the different treatment options available for biceps tendon rupture:
The upper part of the biceps muscle divides into two tendons, named the long head and the short head, that are responsible for anchoring the biceps muscle to the shoulder. At the bottom of the biceps muscle, the distal biceps tendon anchors the tendon to the elbow. A biceps tendon rupture occurs when one of these tendons is torn completely, detaching the muscle from its anchor. Tears of the biceps tendon are usually caused by overuse or injuries like falling on an outstretched arm or lifting incorrectly.
Symptoms of biceps tendon rupture vary depending on the degree and location of the tear, but often include pain, bruising, swelling, tenderness, and difficulty using the bicep muscle. You may experience a snapping sound or sensation at the time of the injury. In some severe cases, the muscle will bulge away from the point where it was anchored.
Nonsurgical treatment like rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy exercises may be used to treat a rupture of the long head of the biceps tendon if other structures are not damaged. Because the muscle is still anchored by the short head, the patient is still able to use their bicep muscle, although deformity and weakness may occur in the arm. Surgical options may be considered if tear is not responsive to conservative treatment or if the patient's career is physically demanding. Tears of the short head are very rare, but if both structures were detached, surgery would be necessary to retain use of the bicep muscle.
Nonsurgical treatment of a distal biceps tendon rupture may be possible if the patient has a condition that makes surgery too dangerous or if the patient is elderly or not active. Deciding the right type of treatment as soon as possible is important, as scarring and shortening of the tendon and biceps muscle starts to occur two to three weeks after the rupture occurs. This make successful surgical treatment much more difficult to attain.
Surgical treatment options vary depending on the location and extent of the tear. Several methods can be used to reattach the tendon to the bone, including minimally invasive and more traditional procedures.