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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 make a cut in 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 required. In this case, a piece of tendon from the foot, toe, or another part of the body is often used. If necessary, 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.

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 for any anesthesia include:

  • Reactions to medications
  • Problems breathing

Risks for any surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Additional risks for tendon repair surgery include:

  • Scar tissue formation that prevents smooth movements
  • 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.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most tendon repairs are successful with proper physical therapy, resulting in functional joint use.

References

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.


Review Date: 7/28/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; 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., Inc.
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