Biceps Tenodesis Surgery

Biceps tenodesis surgery provides a solution for individuals grappling with shoulder pain and weakness caused by a tear in the liner of the ball and socket joint (labrum) or a torn long-head biceps tendon. In this article, we’ll explain what biceps tenodesis surgery is, who may be a good candidate for the procedure, the risks, and the recovery process.

If you need expert care for shoulder injuries and sports-related conditions, call Dr. Szerlip today! As a fellowship-trained shoulder and sports medicine surgeon, Dr. Szerlip brings a wealth of experience and expertise to his practice, ensuring that each patient receives tailored treatment aligned with the latest advancements in orthopedic care.

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What Patients Are Saying

“I had a tear in my right shoulder, and when I saw him, he clearly explained what had happened to my shoulder and the procedure that would be used to fix it. So far so good in the recovery process as well. I had a few checkup appointments as well to make sure my shoulder was healing properly. Overall, a great doctor.” — Maleo Z.

What is Biceps Tenodesis?

Biceps tenodesis is a surgical procedure used to transfer the biceps tendon to a different location due to a torn labrum or treat a tear in the long-head biceps tendon, which is found between the biceps muscle and shoulder. This tendon is located at the top of the bicep muscle in the shoulder joint. It’s connected to the labrum, the cartilage that lines the shoulder socket.

The procedure involves releasing the biceps tendon from the labrum and reattaching it to the upper arm (humerus) bone. The procedure can be done through a small open incision or arthroscopic surgery.

The biceps tenodesis procedure can be used for both partial and full tendon tears. Damage and tears to this tendon are sometimes referred to as biceps tendonitis.

Who is a Candidate for Bicep Tenodesis Surgery?

Biceps tenodesis surgery is used to address labral tears, biceps muscle pain and weakness in a torn biceps tendon. It can also be utilized in combination with rotator cuff repairs to move the biceps tendon out of the way of the healing rotator cuff. The symptoms that might indicate you need biceps tenodesis surgery include the following:

  • Persistent shoulder pain that’s not helped by rest, physical therapy, or pain medication
  • Sudden sharp pain in the upper arm, often accompanied by snapping and popping sounds caused by a labral tear. 
  • Experiencing cramps in the upper arm, particularly after carrying or lifting heavy objects
  • Observing an abnormally large bulge in the upper arm (commonly referred to as a Popeye bulge)
  • Presence of bruises or swelling extending from the upper arm to the elbow
  • Difficulty rotating the arm to the palm-up position

Preparation for the Procedure

Our medical team will provide specific instructions to prepare for the procedure. Some basic guidelines include the following:

  • Avoid eating or drinking at midnight the night before surgery. If you need to take medication, you can sip some water.
  • Ideally, stop smoking two weeks before surgery.
  • Speak to your doctor about any medications you are taking, including herbal supplements.

What Happens During a Biceps Tenodesis Procedure

Biceps tenodesis is performed under either local or general anesthetic. The procedure generally follows these steps:

  1. The surgeon will insert a small camera and instruments (arthroscopic) in the shoulder to release the biceps tendon from the top part of the labrum.
  2. Next, they carefully transfer or relocate the biceps tendon to a different location on the arm bone (humerus). 
  3. Afterward, a small hole is drilled into the upper arm bone.
  4. Utilizing an anchor, the surgeon secures the biceps tendon within the hole in the upper arm bone.
  5. Finally, the surgeon closes the incision, ensuring proper wound closure.

Surgical Risks of Biceps Tenodesis

As with all surgical procedures, there is potential for some complications. Complications of biceps tenodesis are relatively rare but could include the following:

  • A chance the biceps tendon ruptures again
  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Nerve injury

Recovery After Biceps Tenodesis

Following a bicep tenodesis, you may receive a pain block that can last 1-2 days after surgery. You will be given prescription pain medication afterward to help with any discomfort.

You will need to support your arm and shoulder in a sling for approximately 1-2 weeks after surgery. During this time and the day after surgery, you can use your hands for “waist-level” activities like typing, texting, and using utensils while eating.

Physical therapy will be within approximately 1 week from your surgery and you will continue for a few months. Full recovery typically takes 2-3 months. Learn more by reviewing our Biceps Tenodesis Protocol

If you return to vigorous activity too quickly, your recovery time could be set back. Your healthcare provider will help you gradually return to activities to ensure a safe return to sports.

The Outlook of Biceps Tenodesis

The majority of patients who have had biceps tenodesis have a full recovery and can pursue all activities they did prior to surgery with the goals of the surgery to eliminate pain and improve function.

Schedule a Consultation Today

If you’re ready to take control of your shoulder health and get back to peak performance, schedule a consultation with Dr. Szerlip today in Austin, Texas. Don’t let shoulder pain hold you back any longer. Contact our office and start your journey toward recovery and restore function!


Medically reviewed by Benjamin W. Szerlip DO