Tendon Repair

Tendons are flexible and fibrous tissues that connect the muscles to the bones. These are incredibly strong and are essential for movement. If a tendon is injured, it can cause many other problems with mobility and function. Most people experience pain, soreness at the site of the tear, and weakness. If a person injures the tendons in their hand, this can cause many everyday difficulties. Once a tendon has been ripped or torn, it is unlikely to heal on its own and may require surgical repair. 

How can a tendon become injured? 

Most of the time, tendon injuries are injured during everyday accidents. Tendons can be injured in many different ways. Tendons can become severed when someone sustains a cut to their hand if the cut is deep enough. They can also become ripped if a person crushes their hand as a result of the pressure and pulling. A common way a person’s tendons become injured is through animal bites. Sports injuries are another way that tendons can rip or tear, especially in the fingers. Uncommonly, someone could need tendon repair as a result of arthritis. Arthritis causes tendons to become inflamed, which can lead to ruptures over time. 

Tendon Repair Surgery

Tendon repair can be simple or extremely complex depending on the severity of the injury. Most tendon repair in the hand is regarded as minimally invasive surgery. Before the surgery is planned, a doctor may want to perform several tests to find out the condition of the tendon. This includes x-ray, CT scans, and ultrasound to make sure the tendon is in need of repair. The operation is relatively simple. The doctor makes an incision and finds the ripped or torn ends of the tendon. They then align and secure the ends together using dissolvable sutures. If the ends of the tendon are frayed or have been damaged too severely, they may take a piece of another healthy tendon and attach that to the two pieces. This is known as a tendon transfer. The surgeon then closes the incision, and a hard cast or splint is placed on the hand to avoid use of the tendon while it heals. 

Tendon Repair Recovery

As the severed tendon heals, it is very important to keep it still and not injure it further. This can stretch it out of place or cause other issues with the recovery. Most patients are required to wear the splint or cast for 4-8 weeks. This depends on the level of healing and the severity of the original injury. Most doctors will prescribe certain hand stretches and physical therapy to help avoid stiffness in the tendon. One of the main concerns of tendon repair is that if the tendon is moved too much after the surgery, it may not heal properly, but if the tendon is moved too little, it could adhere to the surrounding tissues and limit mobility and function. It usually takes about 12 weeks for the tendon to return to full strength. 

Tendon Repair Long Term Effects 

If the patient follows all the doctor’s recommended recovery measures, they should be able to return to normal activities after 12 weeks. Most patients are pain-free and have no limitation in mobility. If the tendon was injured in a crushing or ripping incident, it may not regain full use due to the nature of the sustained injury, despite the doctor’s best care. If the patient does not follow the recommended recovery plan, they are at a much higher risk of infection, long-term pain, and recurrence of tendon injury. Some patients do experience some pain during high intensity use of the tendon, but this should diminish over time. Luckily, most people have great long term results after tendon repair. 


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