This handout explains follow-up care after a surgical biceps tendon repair. The biceps tendon was securely anchored down to the bone during repair. A splint has been used to protect the tendon as it heals. Please do not attempt to lift anything heavier than a pencil with your arm. Prior to surgery, you were given a local anesthetic and regional block. Because of the pain blocks, you may notice numbness and/or tingling in your fingers & hands. This is normal and should dissipate within 24 hours.

If the skin around the incision is red or if there is drainage coming out of it, please call us right away at the phone number listed at the bottom of this page. Please go to the emergency room if this occurs at night or on a weekend. We recommend that you start physical therapy within one week after surgery to begin gentle range of motion exercises. If you do not have an appointment to begin post-operative therapy, please contact our office and we will coordinate that for you.

Wound Care:

  • Bone anchors (hardware) may be used to repair a ruptured biceps tendon. These hold the tissue in place until it can heal.
  • Your arm will be placed in a bulky splint after surgery. This helps to protect the surgical site (the tendon repair) and to lessen swelling. When bathing, put a plastic bag around your arm to keep the splint clean and dry. If the splint feels tight, you may unwrap & rewrap the Ace bandages to make it more comfortable.
  • Elevate your arm as much as possible each day to reduce swelling and/or pain. Please avoid lifting objects with this arm.

Pain Management:

  • You will receive a prescription for narcotic pain medication. Take the pain medication as it is prescribed. This will help to best manage your pain. As it takes about 1 hour for the medication to take effect, it is important to “stay ahead” with your pain medication and avoid having to play “catch up” for a significant increase in pain.
  • Medication for nausea may also be provided. Please make sure to take this as directed. It is typically placed under the tongue (sublingual) to be absorbed in the mouth.
  • Please make sure to check with the postoperative nurse or the Bellevue Bone & Joint Physicians staff if you have additional questions about how to manage your pain medication.
  • If you have uncomfortable side effects from the pain medication, please call us.
  • Please see the “Medications After Surgery” form for more detailed instructions.
  • It is normal to have some pain off and on for approximately one year after surgery, particularly in cold weather.

Driving:

  • Do not drive if you are taking narcotic medication, as it is unsafe and against Washington state law. Taking medication can make you sleepy and delay your reaction time.
  • Once you are no longer taking narcotic medication, you may drive as soon as you can comfortably grip the steering wheel with both hands.

Activity:

  • You will have very little use of the operative arm for about six weeks after surgery until the tendon heals with the bone.
  • Do not lift anything heavier than a pencil or pen until your sutures have been removed and you have been advised to advance your activity by your physician or therapist.

Follow-Up:

  • You will have very little use of the operative arm for about six weeks after surgery until the tendon heals with the bone.
  • Do not lift anything heavier than a pencil or pen until your sutures have been removed and you have been advised to advance your activity by your physician or therapist.

Results:

Many patients who rupture their biceps will regain full use of their arm. Stiffness is common after surgery and decreases with use. Occasional discomfort may occur, but should diminish in frequency and strength over time. If there is hypersensitivity at the surgical scar site, our medical staff can advise you on how to gently rub the skin using materials with different textures to reduce these effects.


Thomas E. Trumble, M.D.

*Figures courtesy of Principles of Hand Surgery and Therapy by Thomas E. Trumble, MD, Ghazi M. Rayan, MD, Mark E. Baratz, MD and Jeffrey E. Budoff, MD