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by Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg, MA
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.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
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.
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
What to Expect TOP
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:
Description of the Procedure TOP
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? TOP
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? TOP
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 TOP
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.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, you will be taken to recovery and monitored closely. The staff may give you:
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor TOP
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
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.
Tenolysis. East Cheshire NHS Trust website. Available at:
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Updated June 2015. Accessed February 24, 2016.
6/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
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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 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 2/26/2014
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