The major complication and reoperation rates after distal biceps repair are poorly defined. The purpose of this large retrospective cohort study of distal biceps repairs performed by multiple surgeons within a large orthopedic group was to more clearly define the rates and risk factors of clinically impactful major complications and reoperations.

All distal biceps tendon repairs performed from January 2005 through April 2017 with a minimum 2-month follow-up were identified using Current Procedural Terminology code 24342. We included 970 patients. The primary outcome measure was the total major complication rate. Reoperations, minor complications, and risk factors were also tracked.

Repairs were performed via a single anterior incision in 652 cases and a 2-incision exposure in 318 cases. A 7.5% major complication rate and 4.5% reoperation rate were observed overall. Major complications occurred at the following rates: proximal radioulnar synostosis, 1.0%; heterotopic ossification or loss of range of motion with reoperation, 0.9%; tendon rerupture, 1.6%; deep infection, 0.5%; posterior interosseous nerve palsy, 1.9%; and complex regional pain syndrome, 0.6%. The 2-incision exposure was identified as a significant risk factor for the development of proximal radioulnar synostosis when compared with single-incision repair techniques (P = .0003; odds ratio, 19), occurring in 2.8% of 2-incision exposure cases. Lateral antebrachial cutaneous nerve neuritis or numbness and radial sensory nerve neuritis or numbness were documented more frequently in the postoperative period among patients treated with a single-incision exposure (P <  .0001 and P = .034, respectively).

Distal biceps repair is associated with a 7.5% major complication rate and 4.5% reoperation rate. The use of a 2-incision technique for repair increases the risk of radioulnar synostosis.

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