Ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow: Correlation of magnetic resonance imaging, clinical, electrodiagnostic, and intraoperative findings
The diagnosis of ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow has relied primarily on clinical and electrodiagnostic findings. Recently, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been used in the evaluation of peripheral nerve entrapment disorders to document signal and configuration changes in nerves. We performed a prospective study on a population of 31 elbows in 27 patients with ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow. The study correlated MRI findings with clinical, electrodiagnostic, and operative findings. A control population consisting of 10 asymptomatic subjects also was studied by MRI. Electrodiagnostic evaluation confirmed ulnar neuropathy in 24 (77%) elbows of the 31, with localization to the elbow region in 21 (68%). MRI, using a short tau inversion recovery sequence, demonstrated increased signal of the ulnar nerve in 30 (97%) elbows of the 31 and enlargement of the ulnar nerve in 23 (74%). No MRI abnormalities were found in the control population. MRI signal increase of the ulnar nerve occurred an average of 27 mm proximal to the distal humerus and extended distally an average of 4 mm below the distal humerus. The mean total length of increased ulnar nerve signal was 34 mm. Ulnar nerve enlargement occurred an average of 19 mm proximal to the distal humerus and extended distally an average of 8 mm above the distal humerus. The mean total length of ulnar nerve enlargement was 12 mm. The 12 patients who underwent a surgical procedure for ulnar nerve entrapment were found to have ulnar nerve compression, with 9 (75%) having excellent and 3 (25%) having good postoperative results. In this study, MRI was both sensitive and specific in diagnosing ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow as defined by clinical, electrodiagnostic, and operative findings.