Original article| Volume 90, ISSUE 11, P1839-1845, November 2009

Patient Education for the Treatment of Ulnar Neuropathy at the Elbow


      Nakamichi K, Tachibana S, Ida M, Yamamoto S. Patient education for the treatment of ulnar neuropathy at the elbow.


      To assess the effect of patient education, the simplest conservative treatment of ulnar neuropathy at the elbow, and establish its indication.


      Patients with ulnar neuropathy at the elbow were treated by education. Its effects and factors affecting outcome were investigated. The length of the treatment was at least 3 months. If the symptoms were improving, the follow-up was lengthened. All of the improved patients were followed up at least for 1 year after they reached a plateau of improvement to check recurrence.


      Patients were selected from an outpatient clinic of a general hospital.


      Patients (N=77; 80 nerves) with ulnar neuropathy at the elbow diagnosed clinically and electrophysiologically.


      Patient education on the pathophysiology and activity modification to unload the ulnar nerve from mechanical stress.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Outcomes were graded as excellent, good, fair, or poor with use of the modified Akahori's classification system. Patient satisfaction was graded as 1 (low) to 5 (high). Repeat nerve conduction studies were performed in those who gave consent, and results were graded as excellent, good, fair, or poor.


      Fifty-three nerves (66%) had excellent or good outcomes. Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that degenerative change (graded as normal, mild, moderate, or severe) was associated with the outcome, while age, sex, side, duration and severity of the disease, diabetes, dislocation of the nerve, and smoking were not. Excellent or good outcomes were obtained in 43 (80%) of 54 nerves with no or mild degeneration and 10 (38%) of 26 nerves with moderate or severe degeneration. Recurrence was less frequent in the former (2 of 43 nerves, 5%) than the latter (4 of 10, 40%). The outcomes strongly correlated with the satisfaction scores and repeat nerve conduction study results.


      Patient education is effective for a considerable number of patients with ulnar neuropathy at the elbow. Whether this is indicated depends on the grade of elbow degeneration. Those who have no or mild degeneration respond better to this treatment with a lower rate of recurrence than those with more severe degeneration regardless of age, sex, side, duration and severity of the disease, presence or absence of diabetes and dislocation of the nerve, and smoking status.

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