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Tendon repair is surgery to repair damaged or torn tendons.
Repair of tendon
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 any injuries to nerves and blood vessels. When 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 operation to repair part of the injury, and then allow the hand to heal for a few weeks. Another surgery will be later done 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 for any anesthesia include:
- Reactions to medications
- Problems breathing
Risks for any surgery include:
Additional risks for tendon repair surgery include:
- Scar tissue formation that prevents smooth movements
- Pain that does not go away
- Partial loss of use 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 - 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.
Treatment after surgery is often needed to minimize scar tissue and maximize the use of the injured area.
Most tendon repairs are successful with proper physical therapy, resulting in functional joint use.
Sokolove PE. Extensor and flexor tendon injuries in the hand, wrist, and foot. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 48.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.