Radial Tunnel Release Operation

The radial nerve is one of three nerves that provide motor and sensory function to the arm. The nerve passes down the back of the upper arm. It then spirals outward and crosses the outside of the elbow before it winds its way down the forearm and hand. On the outside of the elbow, the radial nerve enters a tunnel formed by muscles and bone. This is called the radial tunnel. If the tunnel is too small, it can squeeze the nerve and cause pain. Repetitive, forceful pushing and pulling, bending of the wrist, gripping, and pinching can also stretch and irritate the nerve.

The operation involves making an incision along the outside of the elbow and down the forearm. Soft tissues are then gently moved aside so the surgeon can check the places where the branches of the radial nerve may be getting squeezed within the radial tunnel. Any parts of the tunnel that are pinching the nerve are cut. This expands the tunnel and relieves pressure on the nerve.

After The Operation

You will find that your elbow is wrapped in bulky dressing or splinted in plaster. Leave the dressing covering the wound until your follow up appointment which should be about ten to fourteen days after your operation.Begin moving free joints as much as you can to prevent stiffness.

It is important to recognise that improvement is slow and that this is not a quick fix operation.You should not be gripping or heavy lifting within the first two to three weeks. Depending on the nature of your work, you may have to sustain from working as advised by the surgeon. You may get back to driving when the post operative pain subsides and you feel safe to do so.

Risks Of Surgery

Generally, this procedure is considered to be effective. However some people may have problems. The commonest of these is stiffness in the elbow during the first few weeks following your operation, but this should gradually improve. Some patients may continue to have pain, but it will be better than it was prior to the surgery. You may experience weakness of grip strength in the hand following the surgery however this will improve with time. There is a chance that radial tunnel syndrome may reoccur. Occasionally there may be more widespread swelling and stiffness, which if severe is called reflex sympathetic dystrophy and is rare. Infection is also rare.

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