What is a Distal Biceps Rupture?

Health Articles

Apr 01, 2021

A distal biceps tendon rupture, often treated by a sports medicine physician, also referred to as a distal biceps tendon tear, is a complete separation of the tendon from its bony insertion in the forearm. The bicep muscle is anchored to the bone at two ends, one being roughly in the area of the shoulder on the humerus bone and one being just below the elbow crease on the radius bone. When a patient suffers a distal biceps rupture, the insertion just below the elbow crease on the radius bone fails, detaching the muscle from its distal anchor point.

A Partial Versus A Complete Rupture

In some cases, a partial tear may occur wherein some of the tendon is still attached to the radius. While less trauma has occurred, both a partial and full rupture of the tendon often require surgery to regain full strength and function of the affected arm. Exceptions to this may exist for older or less active individuals or if the loss of strength and function is tolerable by the patient.


Distal biceps rupture often occur when the elbow is forcefully straightened against resistance, such as when attempting to lift a heavy object. As the patient attempts to bend or keep their arm bent against resistance, the stress on the tendon increases until it fails, tearing away from the bone.


When this injury occurs, patients will often experience a popping sensation at the elbow. Pain and swelling at the area of injury may also present. Following injury, visible bruising often exists at the elbow and forearm. Weakness and restriction of full motion are also common. Finally, a bulge in the upper part of the arm where the retracted bicep has settled often also exists with a palpable gap near the elbow where the native insertion used to be.


Again, while nonoperative options exist, the treatment necessary to regain full strength and function requires surgical intervention. Either way, it is critical that patients see a surgeon as soon as possible following injury as delaying treatment may make the injury more difficult to treat.

While different methods exist, in this procedure, the surgeon will often make a small incision over the insertion site, insert a strong anchor into the radius and reattach the tendon using sutures to its anatomical point. Rehabilitation follows where the patient will steadily increase the utilization of the affected arm under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist.

If you believe you may have suffered a distal biceps rupture, book your appointment to see one of our sports medicine surgeons today.  

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