Surgical Information

Biceps Repair

What is biceps repair?

Biceps repair is minimally invasive surgery to repair a tear in the biceps tendon, the long, cord-like structure that connects the biceps muscle to the shoulder and the forearm. Repair of a biceps tear at the shoulder is called biceps tenodesis. Repair of a biceps tear at the elbow is called distal biceps repair.

The type of surgery performed depends on the nature, extent and location of the damage. Partial tears may only require a simple arthroscopic shaving (called a debridement) of the torn fibers. If the tear is more severe, the surgeon must re-attach the torn tendon back to the bone.

Many biceps repairs are performed arthroscopically. In this procedure, the surgeon makes several small incisions around the affected area and inserts a narrow fiber optic scope (called an arthroscope) to examine the condition of the tendon. Tiny instruments are used to remove the frayed edges, if the tear is small, or repair and reattach the tendon, if the tear is more severe.

Arthroscopic repair of biceps tears allows surgeons a full view of the tendon without having to cut through nerves or muscles. Patients experience less pain and blood loss, fewer complications and a faster recovery. The result is a more balanced, stable repair that helps restore full function.

Anatomy

The biceps tendon originates from the top of the glenoid (shoulder socket) and exits through the bicipital groove. Below the shoulder, this tendon becomes the long head of the biceps muscle. The tendons that connect the biceps muscle to the shoulder joint are called the proximal biceps tendons. The tendon that attaches the biceps muscle to the forearm bones is called the distal biceps tendon.

When is surgery recommended?

Many biceps tendon tears do not require surgery. Conservative treatment such as rest, ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy can help relieve pain and restore strength. However, if these non-surgical methods fail to alleviate symptoms or the biceps tear is complete, repair surgery may be necessary. Surgery is also a good option for people who need full arm strength to play sports or perform a job.

What is the recovery time?

Recovery from repair surgery is a gradual process that usually includes several months of rehabilitation to restore strength and range of motion. Patients can typically resume desk and light-duty work within the first week or two following surgery. Return to heavy labor and heavy lifting usually takes two to four months. A return to full, unrestricted function can take from six to nine months. As with all surgical procedures, specific recovery time varies by patient and demand.