What Is Tendon Repair
Tendon repair is surgery done to treat a torn or otherwise
damaged tendon. Tendons are the soft, band-like tissues that connect muscles to
bone. When the muscles contract, the tendons pull the bones and cause the
joints to move.
When tendon damage occurs, movement may be seriously
limited. The damaged area may feel weak and/or painful.
Tendon repair surgery may be helpful for people who have
tendon injuries that are making it difficult for them to move a joint or are
Common Reasons for Tendon
Tendon repair is done to bring back normal movement to a
joint. Tendon injury may occur anywhere in the body where there are tendons.
According to Cooper University Hospital (CUH), the joints that are most
commonly affected by tendon injuries are the shoulders, elbows, ankles, knees, and
A tendon injury may occur from a laceration (cut) that goes
past the skin and through the tendon. A tendon injury is also common from
contact sports injuries such as football, wrestling, and rugby.
According to the American
Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “jersey finger" is one of the
most common sports injuries affecting the tendons. It may occur when one player
grabs the jersey of another player and gets their finger caught on the jersey.
When the other player moves, the finger is pulled and the tendon is pulled off
Tendon damage can also occur in rheumatoid arthritis, an
inflammatory process of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can involve the
tendons, causing them to tear (rupture).
How Is Tendon Repair Done?
Generally, during tendon repair a surgeon will:
- make one or more small incisions (cuts) in the
skin over the damaged tendon
- sew the torn ends of the tendon together
- check the surrounding tissue to make sure no
other injuries have occurred, such as injury to the blood vessels or nerves
- close the incision
- cover the area with sterile bandages or
- immobilize or splint the joint so as to allow
the tendon to heal
If there isn’t enough healthy tendon to reconnect, the
surgeon may perform a tendon graft. This is when a piece of tendon
from another part of the body is used. It may be from the foot, toe, or other
body part. On occasion, a tendon transfer (moving one tendon from one area to
another) may be useful in restoring function to an extremity.
Anesthesia (pain medication) is used during tendon repair to
prevent the patient from feeling pain during the surgery.
The types of anesthesia are:
anesthesia: the area where the surgery is to be performed is numbed and
anesthesia: the surrounding area and the area where the surgery is to be
performed is numbed and pain-free
anesthesia: the patient is unconscious (asleep) and unable to feel pain
Potential Risks of Having a
Tendon Repair Surgery
Risks associated with tendon repair include:
- scar tissue, which may form and prevent the
joints from moving smoothly
- some loss of joint use
- stiffness of the joint
Risks for anesthesia include reaction to medication including
difficulty breathing, rash, or itching. Risks for surgery in general include
bleeding and infection.
Recovery and Care After
Tendon repairs are usually done on an outpatient basis. This
means the patient can go home after the surgery. If the patient does stay in
the hospital, it’s usually for a short period of time.
Healing can take up to 12 weeks. The injured tendon may need
to be supported with a splint or cast in the meantime.
Physical therapy may be necessary to return movement in a
safe manner. Expect movement to return gradually, with some stiffness.
You may need treatment after the surgery to minimize scar
tissue. Too much scar tissue can make it difficult to move the damaged tendon.
Tendon Repair Surgery
Tendon repairs can be very successful if they’re done along with
proper physical therapy. As a general rule, the sooner tendon repair surgery is
done after the injury or insult, the easier the surgery is and the easier the recovery.
In some cases, long-term complications may develop.
Stiffness may be long-lasting. Some tendon injuries, such as injuries to the
flexor tendon in the arm, can be very difficult to repair. Before surgery,
discuss potential outcomes with your doctor so that you have a realistic view
of your individual outlook.