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J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 1999 Nov-Dec;8(6):644-54.

Disorders of the long head of the biceps tendon.

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Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Mo., USA.


Without a clear understanding of the functional role of the biceps tendon, treatment recommendations have been a subject of controversy. An objective review of the available information would suggest that some humeral head stability may be imparted through the tendon. However, the magnitude of this function is likely to be small and possibly insignificant. In contrast, the symptomatic significance of the long head of the biceps is less controversial, and it has become increasingly recognized as an important source of persistent shoulder pain when not specifically addressed. When present, persistent pain from the long head of the biceps is likely to have more negative functional consequences than loss of the tendon itself. Given these concerns, evaluation and treatment of patients with long head of the biceps disorders should be individualized, based on the likelihood that biceps-related pain will resolve. Although not universally accepted, we recommend tenodesis of the long head of the biceps in those cases in which there are either chronic inflammatory or structural changes, which would make it unlikely that the pain would resolve. These clinical situations in which tenodesis would be required include greater than 25% partial thickness tearing of the tendon, chronic atrophic changes of the tendon, any luxation of the biceps tendon from the bicipital groove, any disruption of associated bony or ligamentous anatomy of the bicipital groove that would make autotenodesis likely (i.e., 4-part fracture), and any significant reduction or atrophy of the size of the tendon that is more than 25% of the normal tendon width. Relative indications for biceps tenodesis also include biceps disease in the context of a failed decompression for rotator cuff tendinitis. It should be emphasized that routine tenodesis is not recommended during operative treatment for the rotator cuff. Rather, we avoid tenodesis whenever it is believed that inflammatory changes to the biceps tendon are reversible. Because of this, tenodesis is not required in most cases.

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