Surgical and nonsurgical treatment of cubital tunnel syndrome in pediatric and adolescent patients

Christopher M. Stutz, Ryan P. Calfee, Jennifer A. Steffen, Charles A. Goldfarb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Purpose: Few studies have investigated the presence or treatment of cubital tunnel syndrome in pediatric or adolescent patients. We conducted this retrospective investigation to quantify success rates of nonsurgical care and to assess patient outcomes after surgical intervention. Methods: We identified 39 extremities treated for cubital tunnel syndrome between 2000 and 2009 at one institution. We documented patient demographic data, precipitating events, symptomatology, physical examination findings, and treatment for all patients. We assessed patient-rated outcomes with validated measures including the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) questionnaire and the visual analog scale (VAS). Results: Subjective complaints at the time of presentation included 16 extremities with ulnar nerve instability at the elbow, 21 extremities with pain at the elbow, and 15 extremities with numbness and tingling in the ring and small fingers. Physical examination revealed 33 extremities with a positive Tinel sign and 20 extremities with a positive elbow flexioncompression test. In the nonsurgical group (9), pretreatment DASH scores averaged 32 and posttreatment DASH scores averaged 11. Pretreatment recall VAS pain scores had a median of 7, and were similar to posttreatment scores, which had a median of 3. In the surgical group (30), DASH scores averaged 46 before surgery and improved to 7 at final follow-up. The VAS pain scores improved from a median of 8 before surgery to 2 after surgery. A total of 30 patients (from both groups) were treated with a trial of nonsurgical care without symptom resolution. Conclusions: Cubital tunnel syndrome in pediatric or adolescent patients is rare. It can be treated successfully with surgical intervention. Although nonsurgical treatment is unlikely to relieve symptoms in this patient population, a trial of nighttime splinting, activity modification, and anti-inflammatory medications remains appropriate for most patients. Surgical intervention is effective for symptom relief if nonsurgical care fails. Type of study/level of evidence: Therapeutic III.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-662
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2012


  • Adolescent
  • cubital tunnel syndrome
  • decompression
  • pediatric
  • transposition


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