Distal biceps tendon tears are responsible for 3% to 10% of all biceps ruptures. Treated nonoperatively, these injuries result in poor endurance, loss of supination strength, and loss of flexion strength compared with those treated operatively with repair or reconstruction. When presenting in a chronic fashion, operative management can involve graft reconstruction or primary repair. When there is adequate tendon excursion and quality, primary repair is preferred. The purpose of this systematic review was to investigate the literature regarding outcomes of direct surgical repair of chronic distal biceps tendon ruptures.
The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were followed to perform this systematic review and for the presentation of results. A search of the literature was performed on the electronic database Medline, Scopus, and the Cochrane Library. Included studies evaluated subjective and objective outcomes after delayed treatment (≥4 weeks postinjury) for chronic distal biceps tendon ruptures, without use of graft augmentation. Subjective and objective outcome metrics such as functional scores, range of motion, strength, pain level, and return to employment were collected.
Eight studies were reviewed. The studies included 124 patients with chronic distal biceps tendon tears, treated surgically after a mean delay to surgery of 121.8 days. Four studies included comparison of patients with acute and chronic tears, whereas the other 4 studies assessed chronic tears only. The findings of these 4 studies suggest that direct repair of chronic tears is correlated with a mildly higher rate of lateral antebrachial cutaneous nerve (LABCN) injury palsy (10/82 [12.1%] chronic vs. 3/38 [7.9%] acute, p = 0.753); however, this complication was overwhelmingly transient. There were only 3 reported reruptures (3.19%) across 5 studies reporting this complication. Overall, patients who had undergone direct repair of chronic distal biceps tears had good patient satisfaction, outcomes, and range of motion.
Direct repair of chronic distal biceps tendon tears without the use of graft reconstruction is associated with acceptable patient satisfaction, range of motion, and functional outcome scores, although transient LABCN palsy rates may be slightly higher. When sufficient residual tendon is present in the setting of chronic distal biceps rupture, direct repair is a viable treatment option. However, the existing literature regarding direct repair of chronic distal biceps repair is limited, and further prospective assessment directly comparing primary repair vs. reconstruction of chronic distal biceps ruptures is warranted.
Level of Evidence:
Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.