• Tenolysis



    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.
    Tendons in Finger
    Finger Tendon
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    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.

    Possible Complications

    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
    • Infection
    • Ruptured tendon
    • Amputation
    Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
    • Smoking
    • Excessive alcohol use
    • Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity

    What to Expect

    Prior to Procedure

    Your doctor may do the following:
    • Physical exam
    • Blood and urine tests
    • MRI scan to see images of the affected tendon
    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

    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 how bad the adhesions are. 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.

    Post-procedure Care

    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
    At Home
    When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
    • Avoid strenuous activities for at least four weeks.
    • Do not lift anything heavy until your doctor says it is okay to do so.
    • Follow your doctor's instructions.

    Call Your Doctor

    Call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
    • 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 http://assh.org

    OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.org


    The Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://coa-aco.org

    Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://canorth.org


    Feldscher SB, Schneider LH. Flexor tenolysis. Hand Surg. 2002;7(1):61-74.

    Overview of hand surgery. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/plastic%5Fsurgery/overview%5Fof%5Fhand%5Fsurgery%5F85,P01130/. Accessed March 9, 2015.

    Replantation. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00314. Updated December 2013. Accessed March 9, 2015.

    6/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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.

    Revision Information

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