You have hundreds of tendons in your body that connect muscle to bone. When you flex a muscle, the attached tendons pull on the bone to allow movement. Without them, you couldn’t turn your head, wiggle your fingers, bend your knees, or lift your toes. For example, if your Achilles tendon behind your heel ruptures, you may not be able to stand on your toes, climb stairs, walk on an incline, or even press on the gas pedal. Tendon surgery repairs the damage so you can regain full function and move about normally.
How Tendons Are Damaged
A rupture is often caused by a sudden movement, like landing hard from a jump or a quick pivot. It can also be the result of overuse, where repetitive stress gradually weakens the tissue until it finally snaps. Accidents can cause cuts or lacerations that go through the skin and damage the connectors underneath.
Who is at risk? People who play sports with lots of jumping, changing directions, and contact with other players are susceptible to this injury, especially if they only play occasionally and their tissues are not conditioned to withstand the impacts. Examples are football, basketball, soccer, or even dancing.
If you have a disease like rheumatoid arthritis, it can weaken the tissues so they are more prone to damage. Having another illness or taking medications like steroids or certain antibiotics can also make you more vulnerable.
When Tendon Surgery Is Necessary
When deciding on a surgical procedure, several factors are considered. If the tear is only minor, it is possible that it could heal on its own, but it may be more prone to re-injury later. If you have a medical condition that makes surgery unwise, we may try conservative treatments such as a cast or protective boot that restricts motion while the tissue heals. However, if the tissue band is completely ruptured, your movement is limited, or you have weakness, numbness, or a lot of pain, surgery is the best way to ensure the tendon will become fully functional again.
What Tendon Repair Involves
The procedure can usually be done on an outpatient basis, under local or regional anesthetic, and you can go home the same day. A more severe injury may require the use of a general anesthetic or a short hospital stay. As with any surgery, there are the risks of bleeding, infection, or problems with the anesthetic used.
Tendon surgery involves making one or more small incisions over the damaged area and sewing the tendon back together. In some cases, we might have to graft in a piece of tendon from another part of your body, or reconnect it to a bone or muscle. We also check for damage to other tissues—like blood vessels or nerves—and repair them if needed. Then we close the incision with stitches, and dress and bandage it.
Recovering from Tendon Surgery
You will probably be in a cast or splint for some weeks, and healing may take a couple of months or more. Be sure to follow all of our instructions for care of the incision and watch for any complications. You may form scar tissue which could cause stiffness or loss of movement in a joint. It is especially important to do any physical therapy exercises we recommend, as they will help the tissues regain their former condition.
If you think you have sustained a tendon injury, don’t wait. Call us right away so we can evaluate it and start you on the road to healing as soon as possible. We offer treatment within 24 hours for acute injuries, and have digital X-rays available on site to help determine the extent of the damage. If surgery is needed, rely on the expert podiatrists at Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates to give you the best care possible. Call us at one of our locations on Florida’s eastern coast.