Background: Few data are available regarding the results of nonoperative treatment of distal biceps ruptures. The present study was designed to assess the outcomes associated with unrepaired distal biceps tendon ruptures.
Methods: Eighteen patients with twenty unrepaired distal biceps tendon ruptures were assessed retrospectively. The median duration of follow-up was thirty-eight months. Sixteen of the eighteen patients were male, and the median age at the time of the injury was fifty years (range, thirty-five to seventy-four years). Supination strength and elbow flexion strength were measured bilaterally, and patient outcomes were assessed with use of the Broberg and Morrey Functional Rating Index, the Mayo Elbow Performance Index, and the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire. Data were compared with historical controls compiled from six published series of operatively treated patients.
Results: The median supination and elbow flexion strengths for the injured arm were 63% (mean, 74%; range, 33% to 162%) and 93% (mean, 88%; range, 58% to 110%) of those for the contralateral arm, compared with values of 92% (mean, 101%; range, 42% to 297%) and 95% (mean, 97%; range, 53% to 191%) for the historical controls that had been treated surgically. The difference between the mean values was significant for supination strength (p = 0.002) but not for flexion strength (p = 0.164). Patients had satisfactory outcomes overall, with median scores on the Broberg and Morrey Functional Rating Index, the Mayo Elbow Performance Index, and the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire of 85, 95, and 9, respectively.
Conclusions: Nonoperative treatment of distal biceps tendon ruptures can yield acceptable outcomes with modestly reduced strength, especially supination.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.