I ruptured my biceps tendon where the biceps attaches to the front of the elbow. I've been told to expect a six-month recovery time. It seems like a simple injury. So why does it take so long to get back to normal?
Biceps rupture with tendon retraction (tendon snaps back up into the upper arm) seems simple but has some unseen complexities to it. If the tendon has retracted too far, a simple repair may not be possible.
The surgeon may have to use a soft-tissue graft to reconstruct the full length and function of the biceps. This is done when the surgeon can't get the tendon back to its original place on the bone without putting the elbow in 90 degrees or more of elbow flexion.
Post-operative recovery takes so long for several reasons. First, in order to ensure tendon healing after surgery without re-rupture, immobilization (cast or splint) is necessary. This can take up to six weeks. Strengthening is not allowed for three months for the same reasons.
There really isn't a lot of evidence to support one post-operative approach over another. More studies are needed to compare treatment methods and timing of treatment to find what brings about the best overall short-term and long-term results. The six-month projected time line is probably very reasonable. If any complications develop, you may expect an even longer recovery time.
Mark Baratz, MD, et al. Repair of Distal Biceps Rupture. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. July 2012. Vol. 37A. No. 7. Pp. 1462-1465.
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