Tendon Transfer: Benefits and Risks
A tendon is the strong connective tissue that connects the muscle to the bone. The fibrous cord works with the muscle to move the joints or structure. The hand and forearm contain more than 40 different muscles. Most of these muscles have overlapping functions.
If the arm is injured, some of the muscles may fail to function correctly. When this happens, a tendon transfer may be performed. The procedure involves moving a working tendon and muscle to replace those not working.
Tendon Transfer Surgery
Tendon transfer surgery is a hand surgery technique that helps improve lost hand function. During the surgery, the doctor will shift a functioning tendon from its original position to a different site. This helps restore lost action to the hand. If the nerve that supplies the muscles has been badly damaged and is beyond repair, the muscle action is lost.
The Treatment Procedure
The tendon transfer procedure is performed while the patient is awake, with mild sedation, or while asleep under general anesthesia. The type of sedation used will depend on the extent or severity of the injury. The surgeon will decide on the best anesthesia based on the individual situation.
The surgeon will begin by making incisions in the skin to find the extra tendon of the functioning muscle. The tendon is moved and sewed onto the tendon of the damaged muscle. In some cases, more than one transfer may be required. The surgeon will then stitch close the skin.
Benefits of Tendon Transfer
Tendon transfer can restore tendon function in several situations. The procedure can treat nerve injuries from a torn, stretched, or cut nerve. It can treat muscle injuries like rheumatoid arthritis and trauma.
It can be used on patients with neuromuscular disorders such as spinal muscle atrophy, cerebral palsy, stroke, and traumatic brain injuries. Patients with birth defects or infants who are born without some muscle function can benefit from the procedure.
Risks of Tendon Transfer
Tendon surgery is usually simple, and risks are rare and minimal. The risks include:
- Hand deformity.
- Injury to nearby tendons, nerves, or blood vessels.
- Weakness of the newly transferred muscles.
- Tendon adhesion or hand stiffness.
In some cases, repair failure may occur, necessitating corrective surgery.
Recovering From Tendon Transfer
After the procedure, the patient will wear a splint or cast to protect the transfer site. The cast is worn until the tendon heals in the new position. The healing process can take between one and two months. The patient may require hand therapy after the surgery.
The need and timing will depend on the individual patient. You should receive hand therapy and follow post-surgical instructions carefully. Too much or too little movement can create problems.
If you have a hand injury, visit a hand surgeon. The surgeon will discuss the treatment options available to find out the best solution for your problem. Tendon transfer can ensure that you experience quick recovery and attain optimal function in your hand.
To know more about tendon transfer, visit Clark Plastic & Hand Surgery at our office in McKinney, Texas. You can call 469-675-3659 today to schedule an appointment.