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Systematic Review

Single- versus double-incision technique for the treatment of distal biceps tendon rupture

a systematic review and meta-analysis of comparative studies

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The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to evaluate differences in functional outcomes and complications between single- (SI) and double-incision (DI) techniques for the treatment of distal biceps tendon rupture.


A comprehensive search on PubMed, MEDLINE, Scopus, and Cochrane Central databases was conducted to identify studies reporting comparative results of the SI versus the DI approach. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement was used for search strategy. Of 606 titles, 13 studies met the inclusion criteria; methodological quality was assessed with the Newcastle-Ottawa scale. Random- and fixed-effects models were used to find differences in outcomes between the two surgical approaches. The range of motion (ROM) and the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) scores, as well as neurological and non-neurological complications, were assessed.


A total of 2,622 patients were identified. No significant differences in DASH score were detected between the techniques. The SI approach showed significantly greater ROM in flexion (standardized mean difference (SMD) -0.508; 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.904 to -0.112) and pronation (SMD -0.325, 95% CI -0.637 to -0.012). The DI technique was associated with significantly less risk of lateral antebrachial cutaneous nerve damage (odds ratio (OR) 4.239, 95% CI 2.171 to 8.278), but no differences were found for other nerves evaluated. The SI group showed significantly fewer events of heterotopic ossification (OR 0.430, 95% CI 0.226 to 0.816) and a lower reoperation rate (OR 0.503, 95% CI 0.317 to 0.798).


No significant differences in functional scores can be expected between the SI and DI approaches after distal biceps tendon repair. The SI approach showed greater flexion and pronation ROM and a lower risk of heterotopic ossification and reoperation. The DI approach was favourable in terms of lower risk of neurological complications.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(12):1608–1617.

Correspondence should be sent to Michele Mercurio. E-mail:

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