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Ulnar Nerve Neuropathy

The ulnar nerve is located in the elbow. When this nerve is damaged, it can result in permanent numbness and loss of function in the muscles of the hand that are connected to this nerve. The elbow contains passages through muscle and connective tissues that may potentially compress the ulnar nerve. Normally, an ulnar nerve injury can be confirmed by electromyography, a test offered through WakeMed’s Neurodiagnostic Lab. This test uses electrodes to transmit electrical signals from the muscle to determine weakness in the nerves. Surgery can remove any compression so that pain and numbness is resolved.

Learn what to expect from surgery

Ulnar nerve decompression surgery is normally an outpatient procedure. Some patients are not fully put to sleep, but are given light sedation to help them rest and remain comfortable. A local anesthetic in the elbow is injected and sometimes a nerve block is used to isolate the entire arm. The surgeon makes a three- to four-inch incision in the inside of the elbow so that the ulnar nerve is exposed. Once inside, the surgeon can explore the upper arm and forearm and ensure that the nerve is decompressed. The nerve is explored into the upper arm and forearm. After the nerve has been explored and is well decompressed, connective tissue and skin are sutured in place.

Patients normally can go home the same day, but need to keep their arm loosely wrapped and elevated for a couple of days. The patient should limit activities using the arm for the next two weeks. Stitches are removed 14 days following surgery. After that time, the patient can slowly return to normal activities, however, the arm will be tender for a few weeks.