Tenolysis is surgery to release a tendon affected by adhesions. A tendon is a type of tissue that connects muscle to bone. An adhesion happens when scar tissue forms and binds tendons to surrounding tissue. This can make it difficult for the affected body part to work correctly. For example, adhesion in the fingers can cause the tendons to become stuck. This prevents the fingers from being able to move properly.
This surgery is often done on hands and wrists.
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Reasons for Procedure
You may have tendon adhesions if you had an injury to the area or if you had surgery that affected the tendon. Tenolysis is done when other therapies, like physical therapy, are unsuccessful.
In addition to tenolysis, other procedures may need to be done. The goal is to have full movement of the affected body part.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Damage to nerves or other nearby structures
- Inability to have full movement of the affected body part
- Pain and stiffness
- Ruptured tendon
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
- Excessive alcohol use
- Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
A physical exam will be done before the procedure.
Talk to your doctor about any medications, herbs, or supplements you are taking. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery, unless told otherwise by your doctor.
Anesthesia will keep you pain-free and comfortable during the procedure. Anesthesia methods include:
- Local anesthesia—the surgical area will be numbed
- General anesthesia —you will be asleep
Description of the Procedure
A tourniquet will be tied near the area where the surgery will occur. This will prevent blood flow to that area. An incision will be made in the skin to expose the tendon and surrounding tissue. The tissue will be cut to release the tendon. During surgery, your ability to move the affected body part will be checked. Based on the movement, the doctor can assess if the procedure is working or if additional procedures need to be done. This may include reconstructing the tendon. The incision will be closed with stitches.
How Long Will It Take?
This depends on which tendon is affected and to what extent. For example, if you injured the flexor tendon in your finger, it can take 45-60 minutes to repair.
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. You will have pain after the procedure. Ask your doctor about medication to help manage pain.
Average Hospital Stay
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 1-2 days. If you have any problems, you will need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, you will be taken to recovery and monitored closely. The staff may give you:
- Pain medication
- Antibiotics to prevent infection
- Medication to prevent blood clots
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incisions
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- Avoid strenuous activities for at least 4 weeks.
- Do not lift anything heavy until your doctor says it is okay to do so.
- Follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
- Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
- Swelling, redness, or pain from the incision site
- Numbness or tingling
- New or worsening symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Society for Surgery of the Hand
OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Feldscher SB, Schneider LH. Flexor tenolysis. Hand Surg. 2002;7(1):61-74.
6/6/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 2/26/2014