Outcomes Following Cubital Tunnel Surgery in Young Patients: The Importance of Nerve Mobility

Curtis M. Henn, Aalok Patel, Lindley B. Wall, Charles A. Goldfarb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Purpose To investigate the outcomes following surgical management of unstable and stable ulnar nerves at the elbow in young patients. Methods We retrospectively reviewed the charts of 67 patients who were 30 years old or younger when they underwent primary cubital tunnel surgery at our institution over a 10-year period. In 34 (45%) of these patients, the ulnar nerve either subluxated or perched on the medial epicondyle with elbow flexion and made up the "unstable" cohort. The remaining 42 patients made up the "stable" cohort. Preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative data were obtained from the patients' charts. Thirty-nine patients completed the following outcome measures: Quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (QuickDASH), visual analog scale (VAS) for pain and treatment satisfaction, return to sport or full activities, and the presence of persistent symptoms. Results At an average of 5.6 years following surgery, the unstable cohort had a significantly lower QuickDASH score (6.4 vs 18.6) and a significantly higher VAS for treatment satisfaction (8.7 vs 5.9) compared with the stable cohort. The unstable cohort was also significantly less likely to experience residual symptoms (43% vs 94%), persistent numbness (39% vs 44%), or persistent tingling (22% vs 56%) compared with the stable cohort. Within the stable cohort, patients who underwent simultaneous carpal tunnel release exhibited improved VAS and QuickDASH scores compared with patients who did not. There were no differences in time to return to sports or full activities or pain VAS between the two groups. Conclusions Surgical management of young patients with symptomatic, unstable ulnar nerves results in superior subjective outcomes compared with surgery in young patients with stable ulnar nerves. Type of study/level of evidence Therapeutic III.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1-e7
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Cubital tunnel
  • nerve instability
  • subluxating ulnar nerve


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