Health Information

Tendon repair

Tendon repair

Definition

Tendon repair is surgery to repair damaged or torn tendons.

Alternative Names

Repair of tendon

Description

Tendon repair can be performed using:

  • Local anesthesia (the immediate area of the surgery is pain-free)
  • Regional anesthesia (the local and surrounding areas are pain-free)
  • General anesthesia (the patient is asleep and pain-free)

The surgeon makes a cut on the skin over the injured tendon. The damaged or torn ends of the tendon are sewn together.

If the tendon has been severely injured, a tendon graft may be needed.

  • In this case, a piece of tendon from the foot, toe, or another part of the body is often used.
  • If needed, tendons are reattached to the surrounding tissue.
  • The surgeon examines the area to see if there are any injuries to nerves and blood vessels.
  • When the repair is complete, the wound is closed.

If the tendon damage is too severe, the repair and reconstruction may have to be done at different times. The surgeon will perform one surgery to repair part of the injury, and then allow the hand to heal for a few weeks. Another surgery will be done later to complete the reconstruction and repair the tendon.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

The goal of tendon repair is to bring back normal function of joints or surrounding tissues following a tendon laceration.

Risks

Risks of this procedure include:

  • Reactions to medications
  • Problems breathing
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Scar tissue formation that prevents smooth movements
  • Pain that does not go away
  • Partial loss of function in the involved joint
  • Stiffness of the joint

After the Procedure

Tendon repairs can often be done in an outpatient setting. Hospital stays, if any, are short.

Healing may take 6 to 12 weeks. During that time the injured part may need to be kept still in a splint or cast. Typically, movement is returned gradually with therapy to protect the tendon as it heals. You may need to wear a type of brace (dynamic brace) that allows the finger or hand to move.

Treatment after surgery is often needed to limit scar tissue and help the injured area regain as much function as possible.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most tendon repairs are successful with proper and continued physical therapy.

References

Cannon DL. Flexor and extensor tendon injuries. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 66.


Review Date: 9/8/2014
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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