Complications of Ulnar Nerve Transposition Surgery

The ulnar nerve is a nerve in the inner arm that runs from the armpit, past the inner elbow and into the fourth and fifth fingers. Compression of the ulnar nerve can occur at the cubital tunnel, which is the bump of bone on the inner portion of the elbow, under which the ulnar nerve passes, states the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. In addition, the ulnar nerve can be damaged from fracture, swelling, cysts, or bone spurs, states the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). The doctor may recommend an ulnar nerve transposition surgery in severe cases, which carries its risks of complications.

Nerve damage may occur after ulnar transposition surgery. (Image: "Design, Pics"/Design Pics/Getty Images)

Nerve Damage

Various strategies may be used in ulnar nerve transposition surgery. If the nerve is compressed in the elbow, the "roof" of the cubital tunnel is removed in mild compression, states the AAOS. In severe compression, the nerve may be moved to lie in front of the elbow and under the skin. In the wrist, the surgeon will remove bone to decrease nerve compression. Regardless of the method used, the ulnar nerve can become damaged during bone removal or during a transposition. A patient may notice worsening symptoms of the ulnar nerve after surgery. In this case, he should tell his surgeon about his concerns, so ulnar nerve function can be tested. If necessary, the surgeon may request an additional surgery to repair further ulnar nerve damage. A patient must choose an experienced surgeon to prevent surgical nerve damage.


Infection is a complication of any type of surgery, including an ulnar nerve transposition. An infection may occur from bacteria on the skin or surgical tools. Bacteria that enters the wound site, can infect the skin, elbow joint or spread to the entire body. A patient should immediately let his doctor know if he experiences excessive pain, warmth, redness or drainage at the surgical site. Signs of a more severe infection include fever, chills or night sweats. A patient should not hesitate to tell his doctor about these serious signs of an infection. Early treatment can prevent the spread of bacteria and reduce the severity of infection.

Excessive Bleeding

A patient may experience excessive bleeding after ulnar nerve transposition surgery. Excessive bleeding can occur if larger blood vessels are damaged during the surgical procedure. In addition, patients with bleeding problems are at a higher risk of excessive bleeding after surgery. A patient should let his doctor know if he experiences excessive swelling in the elbow. Furthermore, he should let his surgeon know if he is taking any blood-thinning medications.

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