Ulnar Nerve Decompression

Ulnar Nerve Decompression for Relief of Symptoms

At Key Clinics, we treat a broad range of conditions affecting the spine and nerves. Among the many available treatments is ulnar nerve decompression, used to provide relief to patients with ulnar neuropathy.

What is Ulnar Neuropathy?

Also referred to as the “funny bone” nerve, ulnar neuropathy consists of numbness, tingling, pain, or all three caused by pressure on the ulnar nerve in one or both arms. For most patients, this condition involves the elbow, but in rare instances, it can affect the wrist. Typically, this condition impacts the little and ring finger. In the majority of cases, repetitive elbow trauma or a fracture causes ulnar neuropathy.

How is Ulnar Neuropathy Diagnosed?

Dr. Joel D. Siegal, a board-certified neurosurgeon at Key Clinics, orders EMG and nerve conduction studies. These studies and a clinical assessment allow him to confirm or rule out ulnar neuropathy.

How Does Ulnar Nerve Decompression Help?

While there are times when the symptoms of ulnar neuropathy go away on their own with behavior modification, sometimes the best treatment is ulnar nerve decompression. With that treatment, Dr. Siegal performs a small surgical procedure to relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve.

Along with eliminating pain, this procedure can prevent any further deterioration of the nerve. This surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia. Patients can notice an almost immediate improvement in their hand function. However, the outcome depends on several factors, including the patient and the degree of preoperative nerve damage. When consulting with Dr. Siegal, he advises his patients as to what they can expect following the ulnar nerve decompression surgery.

Without this surgical procedure, there is a risk of the patient experiencing chronic pain that often intensifies over time and ongoing numbness and weakness (even to the point of the inability to use the hand).

What Does Ulnar Nerve Decompression Surgery Entail?

In preparation for this procedure, the doctor will have specific blood tests taken, primarily to ensure the patient’s blood clots correctly. After the patient undergoes general anesthesia, Dr. Siegal makes an opening on the inside of the elbow, divides a band of tissue and scar causing the constriction of the nerve, and moves the nerve out of the “funny bone canal” so as to be able to prevent continued nerve compression and bruising.

Within roughly 45-50 minutes, Dr. Siegal closes the incision. Once fully awake, the patient can have someone drive him or her home on the same day as the ulnar nerve decompression surgery.

Although risks exist with any nerve surgery, there are very few with this procedure. Primarily, Dr. Siegal discusses with the patient what to watch for regarding an infection. Most patients keep a dressing on the wound for 2 days after surgery and elevate the involved hand/arm for 48 hours.

Within 2-3 weeks after the procedure, Dr. Siegal assesses the incision again, making sure that it has healed properly. Upon complete healing, the patient can return to normal activities without any lingering effects. With a successful ulnar nerve decompression surgery, most patients have tremendous improvement in their symptoms. Call us or schedule an appointment online today.