Tendons connect muscles to bone and assist in movement of joints. When they become injured by trauma they usually need to be repaired surgically to regain motion of the joints affected.
Tendon repair can be done in different ways depending on the extent of the injury. The simplest repair is making an incision in the skin over the tendon and sewing the ends of the damaged tendon together. If the tendon injury is extensive or delayed, it may be necessary to perform a graft. When a graft is performed, a tendon or portion of a tendon will be taken from another part of the body to do the repair. The tendon for the graft can be taken from the forearm, foot or other area of the body. Tendons that are used for grafting are usually expendable in that other tendons can take over for the loss of that particular tendon. When a graft is needed, these tendons can be taken safely without further damage.
The type of anesthesia used during tendon repair varies depending on the extent and location of the injury and recommendation from the surgeon. Local or regional anesthesia can be used where only the area of the body where the surgery is performed is numb or pain-free. Often this is supplemented by IV sedation or twilight sleep. Finally, if general anesthesia is used, you are asleep and free of pain during the procedure.
There are possible risks or complications associated with tendon repair surgery including, prevention of smooth movements of the repaired tendon due to scar tissue formation, rupture of the repaired tendon and inability to re-gain full motion.
Healing can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks and you may be in a splint or cast to prevent movement during the course of healing. Physical therapy often is needed to maximize mobility and minimize the formation of scar tissue and can last for several months.