Recovery - Hand tendon repair

When you can return home after having surgery depends on how badly your hand was damaged.

You may be able to go home on the same day, once you have recovered from the anaesthetic.

After hand tendon repair operation

If you had a general anaesthetic, you'll wake up in the recovery room after your operation. You may have an oxygen mask on your face and feel a bit drowsy.

If you live on your own and had a general anaesthetic, you might need to stay in hospital overnight.

If you had a regional or local anaesthetic, you'll be able to go back to the ward sooner. Your arm will be numb and floppy for several hours.

It's normal for your hand to be elevated in a sling (a large, supportive bandage) to help reduce swelling. You should keep your hand above your heart once you leave hospital to reduce swelling.

Your hand will probably be bruised and swollen and it will be painful when the anaesthetic wears off. You may need to take painkillers for up to 2 weeks.

You won't be able to drive for several weeks after the operation. You'll need to arrange for someone to pick you up and take you home from the hospital.

Recovery and rehabilitation

Before leaving the hospital, you may get a lighter and more flexible plastic splint. This will help to prevent the repaired tendons becoming overstretched. You'll usually need to wear the splint at all times for 3 to 6 weeks.

Your hand therapist will tell you how to look after the splint, and what to do if you have any problems with it. It's important to avoid getting the splint wet. Cover it with a plastic bag while having a bath or shower.

You'll be taught hand exercises which prevent the tendons sticking to surrounding tissue. The specific exercises vary depending on the type of repair you had.

If you smoke, you should try to stop. Smoking can impair the blood circulation in your hand and delay your recovery time.

Read more about stopping smoking

Returning to work and activities

How quickly you can return to work and resume normal daily activities will depend on the nature of your job. The type and location of your injury also has an effect.

The repaired tendon will usually be back to full strength after about 12 weeks. It can take up to 6 months to regain the full range of movement. In some cases, it may never be possible to move the affected finger or thumb as much as before it was damaged.

In general, most people are able to resume:

  • light activities after 6 to 8 weeks, such as using a keyboard or writing with a pen
  • medium activities after 8 to 10 weeks, such as light lifting or shelf stacking
  • heavy activities after 10 to 12 weeks, such as heavy lifting or building work
  • driving a car, motorcycle or heavy goods vehicle (HGV) after 8 to 10 weeks
  • sporting activities after 10 to 12 weeks

Important

It's vital that you follow all the advice given to you on using your hands while recovering. Using your tendons before they have healed could cause the repair to rupture.

Take care

After having hand surgery, be careful when carrying out everyday activities such as:

  • squeezing toothpaste tubes or shampoo bottles
  • getting out of the bath
  • opening doors
  • getting dressed and undressed, as your hand can catch on your clothing


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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