What is ulnar nerve compression?

The ulnar nerve goes round the back of the inner side of your elbow and through a tight tunnel between the forearm muscles. Ulnar nerve compression happens when there is increased pressure on the ulnar nerve, usually resulting in numbness in your ring and little fingers.

Surgery helps to prevent further damage to the nerve. If you have the operation early enough, the numbness in your hand may get better.

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What does the operation involve?

The operation usually takes between half an hour and three-quarters of an hour. A variety of anaesthetic techniques is possible.

Your surgeon will make a cut over the back of the inner side of your elbow. They will cut any tight tissue that is compressing the nerve. Sometimes your surgeon will need to remove a piece of bone or move the nerve. 

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

If your symptoms are mild and happen mostly at night, a splint to hold your elbow straight while you are in bed often helps.

In many cases, it is best to have an operation to release the nerve to prevent permanent nerve damage.

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring

Specific complications

  • Continued numbness in your ring and little fingers
  • Return of numbness
  • Numbness in a patch of skin just below the tip of your elbow.
  • Tenderness in the scar
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the arm (complex regional pain syndrome)

Information leaflet

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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Acknowledgements
Prof Tim Davis ChM FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)
Medical Illustration Copyright © Nucleus Medical Art.
Copyright © 2019 EIDO Healthcare Limited
The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by the Horder Centre. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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