Background: Ulnar nerve compression at the elbow is frequently encountered as the second most common compression neuropathy in the arm. As dexterity may be severely affected, the disease entity can seriously interfere with daily life and work. However, epidemiological research considering the risk factors is rarely performed. This study intended to investigate whether potential risk factors based on historical belief contribute to the development of ulnar nerve compression at the elbow.
Method: A hospital based case control study was performed of patients that underwent surgical treatment for ulnar nerve compression at the elbow at the neurosurgical department from June 2004 until June 2005. Controls were those patients treated for a cervical or lumbar herniated disc. The main outcome measure was the presence of ulnar nerve compression at the elbow proven clinically, and electrodiagnostically.
Results: 110 patients with ulnar nerve lesions and 192 controls were identified. Smoking, education level and related working experience were identified as risk factors. Conversely, gender, BMI, alcohol consumption, trauma to the elbow, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension are not risk factors for the development of ulnar nerve compression at the elbow.
Conclusion: Risk factors are clearly defined. In the past many factors have been described, but mostly in surgical series. This study concludes that gender, previous fracture of the elbow and BMI are not predictive factors for ulnar entrapment neuropathy. However, education and working experience are closely correlated with this entity.