How it's performed - Hand tendon repair

Tendon repair is not an emergency surgery. But it's carried out as quickly as possible after the injury, usually within a few days. This is because more scarring develops the longer the tendons remain ruptured. Scarring can reduce the range of your hand movement.

X-rays of your hand and forearm may be taken before repairing your tendons. The x-ray is to check for fragments of glass and any other damage, such as a fracture.

Depending on the injury, you may get antibiotics and a tetanus jab before surgery. This is to prevent your hand becoming infected.

Extensor tendon repair

You'll usually be under a regional or a general anaesthetic for an extensor tendon repair. A regional anaesthetic is an injection which numbs your whole arm.

The surgery takes around 30 minutes if nothing else is damaged.

If your tendon damage is because of a wound, it'll be thoroughly cleaned. The surgeon may make a cut in your hand to enlarge the wound. Then the 2 ends of the ruptured tendon will be stitched together. They'll then close the wound with stitches.

You'll probably get a rigid splint to stop you moving your hand and damaging the repaired tendons.

Flexor tendon repair

Flexor tendon repair is also carried out under a regional or general anaesthetic. A simple flexor tendon repair takes 45 to 60 minutes. Complex surgery for more severe injuries could take much longer.

A tourniquet (a cord or tight bandage) will be wrapped around your upper arm. This stops the blood circulating so that bleeding at the wound doesn't make it difficult to see.

The surgeon will enlarge the wound to see the tendons, or make an incision if there's no wound. They'll bring the 2 ends of the damaged tendon together and stitch them to each other. They'll then close the wound with stitches.

You'll probably get a rigid splint to stop you moving your hand and damaging the repaired tendons.

Read more about recovering from surgery

Tendon transfer

Sometimes it is not possible to reattach the ends of the ruptured tendon. This may be because the ends of the tendon are too frayed.

In these cases, you may have surgery to detach a tendon from one of your healthy fingers. It can then be reattached to the damaged finger or thumb.


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 23 March 2021
Next review due: 23 March 2024

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