Distal biceps brachii tendon ruptures lead to substantial deficits in elbow flexion and supination; surgical repair restores muscle strength and endurance.

To examine clinical and surgical outcomes for distal biceps tendon repairs in a large, multispecialty, integrated health care system.

Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

Retrospective cohort study of distal biceps tendon repairs performed between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2015. The repair methods were classified as double-incision approach using bone tunnel-suture fixation or anterior single-incision approach. Anterior single incisions were further classified according to the fixation method: cortical button alone, cortical button and interference screw, or suture anchors alone. Patient demographics, surgeon characteristics, range of motion, and complications were analyzed for all repair types.

Of the 784 repairs that met the inclusion criteria, 639 (81.5%) were single-incision approaches. When comparing double-incision and single-incision repairs, there was a significantly higher rate of posterior interosseous nerve palsy (3.4% vs 0.8%, P = .010), heterotopic bone formation (7.6% vs 2.7%, P = .004), and reoperation (8.3% vs 2.3%, P < .001). The most common nerve complication encountered was a lateral antebrachial cutaneous nerve palsy (n = 162), which was significantly more common in the single-incision repairs than in the double-incision repairs (24.4% vs 4.1%, P < .001). When excluding lateral antebrachial cutaneous nerve palsies, there was no significant difference in the overall nerve palsies between single-incision and double-incision (5.8% vs 6.9%, P = .612). The overall rate of tendon rerupture was 1.9% (single incision, 1.6%; double incision, 2.8%; P = .327). The overall rate of postoperative wound infection was 1.5% (single incision, 1.3%; double incision, 2.8%; P = .182). The average time from surgery to release from medical care was 14.4 weeks (single incision, 14 weeks; double incision, 16 weeks; P = .286). Patients treated with cortical button plus interference screw were released significantly sooner than were patients with other single-incision repair types (13.1 ± 8.01 weeks, P = .011). There were no significant differences in rates of motor neurapraxia, infection, rerupture, and reoperation with regard to surgeon's years of practice, fellowship training, or case volume.

The surgical repair of distal biceps tendon ruptures has an overall low rate of serious complications, regardless of approach or technique. However, the double-incision technique has a higher rate of posterior interosseous nerve palsy, heterotopic bone formation, and reoperation rate. Surgeon's years of practice, fellowship training, and case volume do not affect the rate of major complications.