Ulnar Nerve Neurolysis

The ulnar nerve is a large nerve that travels in the arm, past the elbow and into the hand on the small finger side.  It is responsible for some of the sensory information and motor function of the ring and small fingers, as well as the small finger side of the hand.  The feeling resulting from hitting your "funny bone" is actually due to the ulnar nerve.  Compression or irritation of this nerve most commonly occurs at the elbow, but can also occur at the wrist.  Injury can be a result of direct trauma to the elbow/wrist or chronic compression.  When the ulnar nerve is compressed or irritated, you may experience some weakness of the ring and small fingers, numbness or tingling (similar to hitting your funny bone, but can last longer).

Surgery to correct this involves exposing the nerve and moving it to a place in the elbow where it is less compressed. This surgery is performed on an outpatient basis meaning you will be able to go home that day. You will be discharged in a temporary splint that must be kept clean and dry until you are seen for follow up with your surgeon, usually the next day. It is important to elevate your arm on a couple of pillows to alleviate pain and swelling. 

At your first follow up appointment, we will then write you a prescription for a splint called an elbow posterior splint that should be worn at all times for 4 weeks, except when showering. You are able to shower 48 hours after surgery; however, it is important that you do not submerge your surgical incision in water (i.e. no bath tubs, swimming pools, etc.). While showering, it is important you do not use your affected hand/arm. After showering, pat incision dry and replace splint. There may be some swelling after the surgery, and as the swelling goes down during recovery, you will need your splint adjusted.

You may or may not need to have the stitches removed.  Some stitches, called Monocryl, will be absorbed while Nylon stitches will be removed 10-14 days after surgery.  After suture removal, follow up appointments will be scheduled about every 2 weeks to monitor your recovery. Occupational therapy begins 4 weeks after surgery. After 4 weeks you may begin to lift 2 pounds, and can increase by 2 pounds every 2 weeks. Heavy lifting must be avoided for up to 8 weeks following the initial surgery.  

You may resume your regular diet after surgery; however, you should start slow. It is a good idea to start with things like toast, Jell-O, crackers, and soup to see how your stomach tolerates food after anesthesia. Drink plenty of fluids such as water or Gatorade and limit your intake of sodas, coffee and other caffeinated beverages.  

We will send you home with a prescription for an antibiotic and a pain medication. It is important to take your antibiotic and pain medication with food to prevent nausea (unless you are instructed otherwise). Do not take your pain medication and antibiotic at the same time as this may upset your stomach; separate them by an hour or two. You cannot drive while taking pain medication.

Should you develop any of the following signs and or symptoms of possible infection, call our office immediately:

  1. Fever over 100.3
  2. Chills or night sweats
  3. Unusual swelling, redness, or warmth to your incision site
  4. Purulent drainage from incision site.

Please do not hesitate to call our office with any concerns or questions you may have.

Please remember the above instructions are only a guide. Always listen to the instructions given by your healthcare provider and follow those if in conflict with any listed above.

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