Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.
What you need to know about a tendon repair:
A tendon repair is surgery to fix a torn or ruptured tendon.
How to prepare for a tendon repair:
Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. He or she will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery. You may need to stop taking blood thinners or aspirin several days before your surgery. You may need an x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI before surgery. This will help your healthcare provider plan for your surgery. Arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery.
What will happen during a tendon repair:
- You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given local anesthesia to numb the surgery area. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during surgery, but you should not feel any pain. If you are given local anesthesia, you may be awake during surgery. Your surgeon may ask you to move your arm or leg. This will let him or her see how well your tendon moves after it is fixed.
- Your surgeon will make one or more incisions near your tendon. He or she will use multiple stitches to put your tendon together. Your surgeon may need to use a tendon from another part of your body. This tendon will be used to reattach your tendon to your bone. A second incision will be made where this tendon is taken. If a tendon in your finger is repaired, your surgeon may place a small button on the outside of your fingernail. The button will help hold your tendon and bone together. It will be removed at a later time. When your surgeon is finished, he or she will close your incision with stitches. A bandage will be placed over your incision. A splint or cast will also be placed around your arm or leg.
What will happen after a tendon repair:
Healthcare providers will monitor you until you are awake. You may be able to go home when your pain is controlled. You may need to wear a cast or splint for several weeks after surgery. You will need to go to physical therapy.
Risks of a tendon repair:
You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. Blood vessels, nerves, or muscles may be damaged during surgery. You may continue to have weakness or trouble moving your affected body part. The stitches used to repair your tendon may come apart. Your tendon may separate from your bone. You may need more surgery to fix these problems.
Call 911 for any of the following:
- You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
- You cough up blood.
- You have trouble breathing.
Seek care immediately if:
- Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- Blood soaks through your bandage.
- Your stitches come apart.
- Your splint or cast comes off.
- Your hand, fingers, foot, or toes closest to your incision are pale, numb, or cold.
- You hear or feel a sudden snap, pop, or crack under your incision.
- You have sudden severe pain near your incision.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever or chills.
- Your wound is red, swollen, or draining pus.
- Your skin under your splint is red, swollen, or open.
- You have nausea or are vomiting.
- Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You may need any of the following:
- Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
- NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
If you or your child has a cast:
Do not get your cast wet or put pressure on your cast. Do not put sharp items under your cast to scratch your skin. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on how to care for your cast.
Care for your wound as directed:
Ask your healthcare provider when your incision can get wet. Carefully wash around the wound with soap and water. Let the soap and water gently run over your incision. Do not scrub your incision. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty.
- Apply ice on your incision for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
- Elevate your arm or leg above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your arm or leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
- Wear your splint as directed. A splint will keep your tendon straight and prevent movement. This will help it heal. Check your skin under the splint for redness, swelling or open areas. You may need to change your splint when it gets wet or dirty. Ask your healthcare provider how to change your splint.
- Rest your arm or leg as directed. Do not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds if a tendon has been repaired in your arm or hand. Keep weight off of your leg as directed if a tendon has been repaired in your knee, ankle, or foot. You may need to wait at least 12 weeks before you can play sports. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your normal activities.
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. They can also prevent your tendon from healing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Perform range of motion exercises (ROM) as directed. Do not do ROM exercises unless your healthcare provider says it is okay. ROM exercises are gentle movements of your joint. ROM exercises will prevent stiffness and help build strength.
- Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
You may need to return to have stitches removed or get a new splint. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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