Triceps Tendon Rupture

A triceps tendon rupture is an injury that occurs to the triceps tendon in the back of the elbow. This commonly occurs from forced bending of the elbow during a pushing activity which can cause the triceps attachment to separate from the bone. A normal triceps tendon is connected strongly to the bone and is responsible for elbow straightening (extension) strength. When the triceps tendon ruptures, this tendon detaches and the muscle cannot pull on the bone causing difficulty and weakness of elbow extension.

In most cases, patients do not notice any loss of shoulder function following a triceps tendon rupture although elbow function is significantly affected. A defect or space on the back of the elbow where the tendon normally is located can usually be felt.  Some cramping of the retracted muscle and perhaps a slight bulge in the arm are also usually common symptoms. Surgical repair of the triceps tendon is usually prescribed for the majority of patients to prevent elbow extension weakness. Nonoperative treatment is only recommended for partial tears.  Surgical repair of a complete rupture is recommend to be performed within 4 weeks of the injury

Surgical repair involves reattaching the tendon to the bone with the use of drill holes or bone anchors.  Following the surgery the elbow is placed in a splint to protect the repair for a short period (1-2 weeks) followed by use of a removable brace (for 6-8 weeks) that allows the elbow to bend.  Physical therapy is typically recommended to begin 4-6 weeks after the surgery with full return to sports or unrestricted activity approximately 4-6 months after surgery.

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