Single Versus Double-Incision Technique for the Repair of Acute Distal Biceps Tendon Ruptures
A Randomized Clinical Trial
Ruby Grewal, MD, MSc, FRCSC; George S. Athwal, MD, FRCSC; Joy C. MacDermid, BScPT, MSc, PhD; Kenneth J. Faber, MD, MHPE, FRCSC; Darren S. Drosdowech, MD, FRCSC; Ron El-Hawary, MD, MSc, FRCSC; Graham J.W. King, MD, MSc, FRCSC

Abstract

Background: This clinical trial was done to evaluate outcomes of the single and double-incision techniques for acute distal biceps tendon repair. We hypothesized that there would be fewer complications and less short-term pain and disability in the two-incision group, with no measureable differences in outcome at a minimum of one year postoperatively.

Methods: Patients with an acute distal biceps rupture were randomized to either a single-incision repair with use of two suture anchors (n = 47) or a double-incision repair with use of transosseous drill holes (n = 44). Patients were followed at three, six, twelve, and twenty-four months postoperatively. The primary outcome was the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) elbow score. Secondary outcomes included muscle strength, complication rates, and Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) and Patient-Rated Elbow Evaluation (PREE) scores.

Results: All patients were male, with no significant differences in the mean age, percentages of dominant hands affected, or Workers’ Compensation cases between groups. There were also no differences in the final outcomes (at two years) between the two groups (p = 0.4 for ASES pain score, p = 0.10 for ASES function score, p = 0.3 for DASH score, and p = 0.4 for PREE score). In addition, there were no differences in isometric extension, pronation, or supination strength at more than one year. A 10% advantage in final isometric flexion strength was seen in the patients treated with the double-incision technique (104% versus 94% in the single-incision group; p = 0.01). There were no differences in the rate of strength recovery. The single-incision technique was associated with more early transient neurapraxias of the lateral antebrachial cutaneous nerve (nineteen of forty-seven versus three of forty-three in the double-incision group, p < 0.001). There were four reruptures, all of which were related to patient noncompliance or reinjury during the early postoperative period and appeared to be unrelated to the fixation technique (p = 0.3).

Conclusions: There were no significant differences in outcomes between the single and double-incision distal biceps repair techniques other than a 10% advantage in final flexion strength with the latter. Most complications were minor, with a significantly greater prevalence in the single-incision group.

Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Footnotes

  • Investigation performed at the Hand and Upper Limb Center, St. Joseph’s Health Center, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

  • Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. One or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.


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