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08.02.2020 | Original Article

Neurolysis versus anterior transposition of the ulnar nerve in cubital tunnel syndrome: a 12 years single secondary specialist centre experience

R. M. Lanzetti, A. Astone, V. Pace, L. D’Abbondanza, L. Braghiroli, D. Lupariello, M. Altissimi, A. Vadalà, M. Spoliti, D. Topa, D. Perugia, A. Caraffa
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Various conservative treatments and surgical techniques have been reported in the literature as efficient and feasible measures to treat the cubital tunnel syndrome. However, there has been no consensus on the best management of the syndrome, and uniform standardised guidelines have not yet been accepted or introduced. With our study, we present our experience on the clinical efficacies and outcomes of the surgical techniques of neurolysis alone and neurolysis associated with ulnar nerve anterior transposition at the elbow joint in patients with neuropathic symptoms due to cubital tunnel syndrome.

Materials and methods

A total of 107 patients with cubital tunnel syndrome were retrospectively enrolled, surgically treated and followed up in our study. The cohort was divided into two groups: 41 patients treated only with neurolysis of the ulnar nerve (Group 1), and 66 patients treated with neurolysis and anterior transposition (Group 2). Of the participants, 35 were women and 72 were men. The average age was 54 years. Significant comorbidities were preoperatively diagnosed in 26 patients. Conservative measures had been considered, followed by surgical management if appropriate. A pre-op electromyography was performed for all patients. All surgical procedures were performed by the same surgical team. A post-operative follow-up was carried out, and the findings were recorded. The “McGowan” and “Wilson and Krout” classifications and the DASH score were used. A satisfaction questionnaire was administered to all patients post-operatively at 2 weeks).


Ulnar nerve neurolysis and anterior transposition surgery were all successfully performed. Overall complications were post-operative haematoma (8%) and wound problems (5%). In 6% there was recurrence of symptoms. In 11% there was no improvement of symptoms. Pre-op McGowan classifications for groups 1 and 2 were 0% and 0% (grade 0), 21% and 24% (grade 1), 46% and 44% (grade 2), and 33% and 34% (grade 3), respectively. The post-op McGowan classifications were 34% and 37% (grade 0), 39% and 40% (grade 1), 23% and 20% (grade 2), and 4% and 3% (grade 3), respectively. The post-op Wilson and Krout classifications were 45% and 46% (excellent), 26% and 28% (good), 19% and 15% (fair), and 10% and 11% (poor), respectively. The DASH score means for groups 1 and 2 were 14.8 and 15.2, respectively. A negative Froment’s sign was present in 73.2% and 71.2%, respectively. In Group 1, the post-op satisfaction questionnaire scores were 0 for one patient, 1 for four patients, 2 for seven patients, 3 for ten patients, 4 for twelve patients and 5 for seven patients. In Group 2, the post-op satisfaction questionnaire scores were 0 for three patients, 1 for nine patients, 2 for twelve patients, 3 for fifteen patients, 4 for eighteen patients and 5 for nine patients.


In our experience, the surgical technique to treat the cubital tunnel syndrome most efficiently and feasibly has not yet been established in terms of indications and outcomes. This is supported by the data present in the international literature. Good and similar results were obtained with neurolysis alone and neurolysis associated with anterior transposition of the ulnar nerve (in line with the international data). In conclusion, more high-quality studies of greater statistical power are needed to provide a consensus on the surgical indications and techniques to treat the cubital tunnel syndrome and to establish internationally standardised guidelines.

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