The cubital tunnel and ulnar neuropathy

S. W. O'Driscoll, E. Horii, S. W. Carmichael, B. F. Morrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

222 Scopus citations


The anatomy of the cubital tunnel and its relationship to ulnar nerve compression is not well documented. In 27 cadaver elbows the proximal edge of the roof of the cubital tunnel was formed by a fibrous band that we call the cubital tunnel retinaculum (CTR). The band is about 4 mm wide, extending from the medial epicondyle to the olecranon, and perpendicular to the flexor carpi ulnaris aponeurosis. Variations in the CTR were classified into four types. In type 0 (n = 1) the CTR was absent. In type Ia (n = 17), the retinaculum was lax in extension and taut in full flexion. In type Ib (n = 6) it was tight in positions short of full flexion (90° to 120°). In type II (n = 3) it was replaced by a muscle, the anconeus epitrochlearis. The CTR appears to be a remnant of the anconeus epitrochlearis muscle and its function is to hold the ulnar nerve in position. Variations in the anatomy of the CTR may explain certain types of ulnar neuropathy. Its absence (type 0 CTR) permits ulnar nerve displacement. Type Ia is normal and does not cause ulnar neuropathy. Type Ib can cause dynamic nerve compression with elbow flexion. Type II may be associated with static compression due to the bulk of the anconeus epitrochlearis muscle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-617
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery - Series B
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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