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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Surgery for ulnar nerve compression

Pokanga mō te kōpeketanga akaaka kōwhiti

shoulder examIf ulnar nerve compression is causing continuous numbness or weakness in your hand or if it has lasted for more than six months despite treatment, you're likely to need surgery.

Surgery for ulnar nerve compression aims to stop the nerve from being squashed (compressed) by surrounding tissue. How the surgeon does that depends on where the problem is.

If your nerve is compressed at your elbow, the surgeon will cut (release) the band of tissue over the nerve. They may move the nerve slightly to the front of your elbow, so it lies in a less pressured area. This also means that when you bend your elbow, the nerve stretches less.

If your nerve is compressed at your wrist, the surgeon will make a zigzag cut at the base of your wrist, then cut through a ligament to release the pressure on the nerve. They may also remove any tissue that is pressing on your nerve, such as a ganglion cyst.

Surgery for ulnar nerve compression is usually done under a general anaesthetic (meaning you go to sleep) or a regional anaesthetic, which numbs all your arm. A regional anaesthetic can also be called an arm block. If you have this, you'll stay awake for the surgery.

Occasionally, the surgery is done under a local anaesthetic (meaning the area is made numb with injections but you stay awake).

You can read more about anaesthetics in having an anaesthetic.

Most people go home the same day as their surgery and do not stay in hospital overnight.

Surgery risks and possible complications

All types of surgery carry some risk and it's important to talk to your surgeon about this before you decide if you want surgery. Tell your surgeon about any problems you've had with surgery or healing before, including any reactions to medicines.

The following risks are not the only risks of ulnar nerve compression surgery but are the most common or serious ones.

Specific risks of ulnar nerve compression surgery

On the next page: Recovering from surgery for ulnar nerve compression

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2022.


Page reference: 351295

Review key: HIWAH-240323