Biceps tendon surgery

An operation to repair a torn or damaged tendon in your upper arm (biceps tenodesis).

About biceps tendon surgery

Biceps tendon surgery is carried out to treat a torn or damaged tendon in your shoulder.

The biceps muscle in your upper arm is attached to your shoulder and elbow joints by tendons (proximal biceps tendon at the shoulder, distal biceps tendon at the elbow).

These tendons help you to bend and rotate your arm.

Injuries to the biceps tendons are most common at the shoulder.

The proximal biceps tendon can be torn through repeated activities such as throwing, or in heavy resistance training.

Distal biceps tendon tears at the elbow can happen when you suddenly load your arm with a straight elbow.

If you haven't been able to recover from a biceps tendon tear with rest and physiotherapy, your surgeon might recommend surgery to re-attach or repair the tendon.

How is biceps tendon surgery carried out?

Biceps tendon surgery is usually carried out under general anaesthetic (you will be asleep during the operation).

Depending on your injury, you surgeon may carry out the operation using keyhole (arthroscopic) surgery or open surgery.

Proximal biceps tendon

At your shoulder, your surgeon will drill a hole in your upper arm bone (proximal humerus).

They will then thread the end of the tendon into the hole and attach it using a small screw and stitches.

Distal biceps tendon

If the tear is near your elbow, your surgeon will drill a hole through the inner forearm bone (radius).

They'll then put a stitch through the end of the tendon and pull it back down. Your surgeon will thread this end into the hole, and fix it in place using a screw and stitches.

The cuts are closed with stitches and the area is covered with a dressing.

After biceps tendon surgery

Your arm will be in a sling for several days after the operation.

For proximal biceps tendon surgery, you'll need to wear a sling for four to six weeks.

For distal biceps tendon surgery, you will have a splint or an elbow brace for four to six weeks.

Your physiotherapist will give you rehabilitation exercises, which start off with gentle movements and build up to strengthening and mobility exercises.

If you have a desk job you may be able to return to work in one to two weeks. If you lift, push, or pull at work, it may take three to four months or longer before you can return to work.

It takes about three to four months for your biceps muscle to heal, and it can be a year before you return to full strength.

“I had a great experience at the Cromwell Hospital; the staff were amazing, and is another level of professionalism compared to other hospitals I’ve stayed in.”

Lorne, Bupa Cromwell patient

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Published: 6 February 2020 | Review: 6 February 2023

Disclaimer: This information is published by Cromwell Hospital and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence and experience from over 30 years of treating patients. It has been peer reviewed by Cromwell Hospital doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. If you have any feedback on the content of this patient information document please email info@cromwellhospital.com or telephone 020 7460 5901.