What is a tendon repair?

Tendons are the band-like tissues that connect muscles to bone. Damage to the tendons in the hand may be due to a deep cut, sports injury or hand crushing injury. When tendons are severely damaged, it can be non-functional and very painful, tendon repair surgery may be needed to restore movement of the fingers or thumb.

What does treatment involve?

Treatment may include splints to keep the hand in a stable position while the tendon heals. For more severe cases, the tendon may be severed and require surgery to repair. Under general anaesthesia, Dr Heymans will make an incision into your wrist, hand or finger to locate the two ends of the tendon that was severed. These ends are then stitched back together.

In some cases, the ends of the tendon are too frayed to be reattached to one another. To repair the tendon, a tendon transfer may be needed. By taking a piece of tendon from a healthy finger, the damaged tendon can be repaired.

What can I expect in terms of recovery?

Depending on which tendon in the hand was repaired, recovery may vary. After a tendon repair, some swelling, pain and stiffness are to be expected. The tendon will be very weak after surgery and will require a lot of rehabilitation to get the strength of the hand back. Dr Heymans will advise you to elevate after surgery to avoid swelling and stiffness during recovery. You will need to wear a splint for the next few weeks to allow the tendon to heal. For the next few weeks, you will be given physical therapy to teach you how to improve the strength of your hand and get it back to its full capabilities. Physiotherapy may also ensure that the repaired tendon doesn't stick to the nearby tissue while it heals. While recovery depends on the extent of the injury, most patients can return to normal within 8 - 12 weeks of surgery.