The ulnar nerve goes round the back of the inner side of your elbow (sometimes called your funny bone). It then goes through a tight tunnel between the forearm muscles. If the tunnel becomes too tight it can cause pressure on the nerve, usually resulting in numbness in your ring and little fingers – called cubital tunnel syndrome.

If your symptoms are mild and occur during the night, your consultant may recommend using a splint to keep your elbow straight during your sleep.

If conservative treatment is not successful, your consultant may recommend cubital tunnel release. 

What happens during cubital tunnel release?

Cubital tunnel release usually takes 30 – 45 minutes. It can be performed under general or local anaesthetic. Be sure and discuss what method will be used with your anaesthetist.

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. Your surgeon may need to remove a piece of bone, or move the nerve so that it lies in front of your elbow. They will discuss this with you. Your surgeon will close your skin with stitches or clips.

Right after your operation you will be taken to a recovery area. You will have a dressing on your wound and may need to wear a sling. A physiotherapist will visit you to show you gentle exercises you will need to do to keep your fingers, elbow and shoulder from becoming stiff.

Cubital tunnel release is usually performed as a day case meaning you will be able to go home the day of your surgery.

Going home after cubital tunnel release

You will not be able to drive so please arrange for someone to take you home when you are discharged.

You should rest for at least the first few days you are home. Be sure and discuss any return to daily activities with your consultant. Wear any splint or sling as instructed. Take any pain relief medication as prescribed.

Keep your wound clean and dry until any stitches or clips are removed.

Discuss any return to work with your surgeon.

Many patients notice improvement soon after cubital tunnel release. However in some cases recovery can take up to 18 months due to damage caused by pressure on the ulnar nerve.

As with any surgical procedure there could be complications including:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Infection

Specific complications of cubital tunnel release may include:

  • Continued numbness or tingling
  • Nerve damage