A tendon is a flexible cord of strong fibrous collagen tissue that attaches muscle to bone. Tendons combined with muscles allow you to move your joints in the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, knee and ankle. When a tendon is injured, the movement in that area is limited. A nerve injury, neuromuscular disorder or trauma to the joint may mean that the two ends of the tendon cannot be reattached to one another. This can lead to paralysis of the joint, the most common of which are drop foot or drop wrist. This paralysis decreases movement of the hand or foot and can lead to further damage and pain when the hand or foot is twisted or bent incorrectly. These tendon injuries then require tendon transfer surgery to bring the hand or foot into its correct alignment and increase the range of motion.

How is a tendon transfer done?

In order to realign the hand or foot after a tendon injury, a tendon transfer is done. In order for a tendon transfer to be successful, the following is required:

  • The muscle needs to be functional for the tendon to attach to it.
  • The soft tissue needs to have minimal scarring and skin damage.
  • The joints need to be stable and mobile.

If Dr Khumalo deems you suitable to have a tendon transfer, under general anaesthesia, he will make an incision in the area where the tendons are working. This working tendon will then be rerouted through the soft tissues, around or between the bones, and connected to another bone with the use of screws in order to replace the damaged tendon.

What will recovery entail?

Following a tendon transfer surgery, you will have a splint on your arm or leg for the next 14 days, in order to immobilise the area. You will not be able to bear weight on the hand or foot for the next 6 weeks to allow recovery of the tendon. You will be able to return to normal activities with comfort only after full recovery, which may take up to 2 months. After this, you will be advised to have physiotherapy to help regain strength, mobility and coordination of the specific joint. It is important to note that the transferred tendon will be weaker than it was in its original position, due to the transfer. Although motion may be limited, you should feel a great improvement in mobility in the joint after surgery.

Read more 

Dr Dlozi Khumalo is a compassionate Specialist Orthopaedic Surgeon with a keen interest in spinal conditions, hip and knee replacements, hand & foot surgery and limb reconstructive surgery. Feel free to make an appointment at his Benoni based practice.

Suite 4, 2nd Floor, Sunshine Hospital, 1522 Soma Street, Actonville, Benoni, 1501

+27 (0)11 898 8000