01 Dec Most Important Things About Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
The second most common upper extremity compression neuropathy is the Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. This neuropathy occurs due to the ulnar nerve going under a lot of pressure. The ulnar nerve is found to be compressed mostly at the level of the patient’s elbow and is found to lie right next to the funny bone, where it is susceptible to pressure. In a few cases, the ulnar nerve can also be compressed at the wrist. Here are the most important things about cubital tunnel syndrome:
The cubital tunnel syndrome can happen to anybody but is common mostly in people who have a repetitive elbow flexing motion, especially patients who are diagnosed with diabetes. Since the tunnel is extremely narrow, swelling can pinch the nerve and cause ring finger or small finger numbness, tingling, or even hand weakness.
Diagnosis and susceptibility:
Patients who are diagnosed with diabetes may develop a swelling of the nerve over time along with narrowing of the tunnel itself because of the abnormal glucose cell metabolism. Due to the extremely narrow tunnel, it would be a tight spot for the swollen nerves, thus resulting in the cubital tunnel syndrome. Therefore, patients who are diagnosed with diabetes are at a much greater risk of experiencing the symptoms of the cubital tunnel syndrome than the general population. Research has also shown that the cubital tunnel syndrome is about three times more common in patients with diabetes than in the general population.
Symptoms to watch:
Some symptoms of the cubital tunnel are that the patients have a tingling or numb sensation on their ring finger or small finger accompanied by a feeling of weakness or clumsiness of their hand. In turn, they have difficulty in executing the most simplest of tasks for their hands such as turning car keys or a doorknob. There will be a worsening of symptoms when they hold their elbow in a bent position for a prolonged period of time, such as while talking on the phone or sleeping. The symptoms may start as intermittent and progress to constant, while in more advanced cases, muscle atrophy, finger deformities and pain can develop, giving the patients a tougher time.
Ways to combat:
Cubital tunnel syndrome has a vast array of treatments which range from surgery to conservative methods. If there is minimal pressure with the syndrome, the doctor will most likely treat the patient through the mean of non-surgical methods. However, most of the patients who have gone through the non-surgical methods believe that they do not treat the cause of the cubital tunnel syndrome completely and thus require peripheral nerve surgery for the remaining symptoms. The peripheral nerve surgery treats the cubital tunnel syndrome by providing more space for the swollen nerve and to reduce the pressure on it. If nerve compression is confirmed not only at the elbow, but also at the wrist (Guyon’s canal), both sites can be addressed during the same operation. The success of the surgery depends on several factors such as for how long the nerve has been compressed, the severity of the compression, the extent of the intrinsic nerve damage and the possible presence of underlying medical or spine problems.
Surgery and recovery:
During surgery for cubital tunnel syndrome the patient is given an anesthesia so they won’t feel any pain during the surgery. A small incision is made at the inner elbow in order to access the nerves after which the structures compressing the nerve are released. In addition, sometimes the funny bone is shaved to allow even more space for the nerve. After the surgery, the dressing will be removed after about 5 to 7 days, while the sutures are removed two to three weeks later.