Cubital tunnel syndrome is the second most common peripheral compression neuropathy. The unique anatomic relationships of the ulnar nerve at the elbow place it at risk for injury. Normally with elbow range of motion, the ulnar nerve is subjected to compression, traction, and frictional forces. As the elbow is flexed the arcuate ligament elongates producing a decrease in canal volume of 55%. Intraneural and extraneural pressures increase and have been shown to exceed 200 mm Hg with elbow flexion and flexor carpi ulnaris contraction. Because the ulnar nerve courses behind the elbow axis of rotation, elbow flexion produces excursion of the nerve proximal and distal to the medial epicondyle. The ulnar nerve also elongates 4.7 to 8 mm with elbow flexion. Cubital tunnel syndrome may develop because of various factors including repetitive elbow motion, prolonged elbow flexion, or direct compression. An understanding of the anatomy and pathophysiology associated with cubital tunnel syndrome will aid in patient evaluation and determination of the appropriate treatment.
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