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Tendon Repair

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Definition

This is surgery to repair a damaged or torn tendon.

Repair of Tendons in the Left Shoulder
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Reasons for Procedure

A tendon attaches muscle to bone. If a tendon tears, the muscle will no longer be able to work properly. This will cause weakness or loss of function. Reattaching the tendon can fix the weakness or function.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems like:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Formation of scar tissue that interferes with normal tendon movement
  • Partial loss of function or stiffness in the involved joint

If your age is 60 years or older, it may increase risk of complications. Other factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Poor overall health
  • Use of certain medications

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor will perform a physical exam. You may also need some tests. These may include:

  • Blood test
  • Urine test
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI scan

Leading up to the procedure:

  • Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may need to stop taking some medications 7 days prior to your procedure. These may include:
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Blood thinners
    • Anti-platelet drugs
  • Arrange for a ride home from the care center.
  • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.

Anesthesia

Depending on where the tendon is located, you may be given:

  • General anesthesia—you will be asleep during the procedure
  • Regional anesthesia—to numb specific region of the body
  • Local anesthesia—to numb the surgical site

Description of the Procedure

The doctor will make a cut in the skin over the injured tendon. The torn ends of the tendon will be sewn together or reattached to the bone. If you have a severe injury, a tendon graft may be needed. In this case, a piece of healthy tendon will be taken from another part of the body. This healthy tendon will be used to reconnect the broken tendon. The doctor will examine the area for injuries to nerves and blood vessels. Lastly, the incision will be closed with stitches.

Immediately After Procedure

The doctor may put you in a splint or cast. This is to keep the injured area in position for proper healing. The splint or cast will usually stay on for a period of weeks.

How Long Will It Take?

This depends on where the tendon is located and the severity of the injury.

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will keep you pain-free and comfortable during the procedure. To reduce pain after the procedure, your doctor may recommend pain medication.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

After the procedure, you will be in a recovery room. The staff will monitor your progress. You may also get pain medication.

You will start physical therapy soon after surgery.

At Home

When you return home, take these steps:

  • Follow your doctor's instructions on cleaning the incision site.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
  • Your doctor or physical therapist will recommend exercises or rehabilitation program.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

Follow these guidelines to care for your splint or cast:

  • If you have a cast, do not get it wet. When you are cleared by your doctor, cover the cast with plastic when you bathe. If you have a fiberglass cast and it gets wet, you may dry it with a hair dryer.
  • Bathe or shower as usual after the splint or cast is removed.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
  • Your cast or splint becomes wet, dirty, or broken
  • Skin below the cast becomes cold, discolored, numb, or tingly
  • New or worsening symptoms

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Revision Information

  • American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons

    http://orthoinfo.org

  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine

    http://www.aossm.org

  • Canadian Orthopaedic Association

    http://www.coa-aco.org

  • Canadian Rheumatology Association

    http://www.rheum.ca

  • Achilles tendon rupture. American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons Foot Health Facts website. Available at: http://www.foothealthfacts.org/Content.aspx?id=1363&terms=achilles%20tendon%20surgery. Updated April 27, 2010. Accessed April 22, 2013.

  • Achilles tendon rupture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated March 18, 2013. Accessed April 22, 2013.

  • Rupture of the biceps tendon. American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00031. Updated May 2009. Accessed April 22, 2013.