Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

I had shoulder surgery and ended up with an acute compression syndrome of the ulnar nerve. How does this happen?

Answer:

Compression neuropathy of the upper extremity (arm) is a common problem. Compression indicates that something is putting enough pressure on the nerve to cause sensory and/or motor symptoms. Neuropathy refers to any damage, injury, or pathology to a nerve.

Sensory changes can include loss of sensation, tingling, and/or pain. Motor involvement is seen as muscle weakness and atrophy. Either or both of these changes can occur depending on which part of the nerve is compressed.

Usually, there is a combination of factors contributing to the problem. Positioning or prolonged use of a tourniquet during surgery can be at fault. Many times patients have slight variations in anatomy that are aggravated by staying in one position too long.

Compression neuropathy can occur if the nerve is accidently cut or crushed during the operation. Sometimes a clear cause just can't be identified. Treatment as early as possible to relieve the pressure and keep the nerve moving can help. Protection of the nerve during movement can prevent worsening of symptoms from scar formation and adhesions. Bassem Elhassan, MD, and Scott P. Steinmann, MD. Entrapment Neuropathy of the Ulnar Nerve. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. November 2007. Vol. 15. No. 11. Pp. 672-681.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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