Your tendons are the powerhouse of your body, as they connect muscle to bone and are essential in the movement process once they receive a signal from nearby nerves. However, if the tendon or signaling nerves are damaged, movement can become painful or inhibited. When conservative means prove ineffective at correcting the underlying issue, your foot specialist may recommend a tendon transfer procedure. Below, we take a closer look at the tendon transfer procedure.
Who Needs A Tendon Transfer?
As we alluded to above, a tendon transfer procedure is considered when tendon or nerve damage in the foot is causing physical issues and non-operative treatment has failed to prove successful. Some physical issues that could indicate tendon damage in the foot include foot weakness, decreased flexibility and difficulty walking or standing.
Tendon transfer may also be recommended for patients dealing with certain underlying conditions. The two most common conditions that are treated with a tendon transfer are:
- Flexible Flatfoot – If the arch of your foot collapses due to stretching or rupture of the posterior tibial tendon, a tendon transfer may be the best way to correct the associated walking problems.
- Neurological Issues – Patients who have experienced nerve damage as a result of a traumatic injury or stroke, or those with an underlying condition like Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, could benefit from a tendon transfer procedure.
However, the need for a tendon transfer procedure does not mean that every patient will be eligible for a procedure. In order to increase the likelihood of a successful transfer, surgeons typically require that the muscle attached to the tendon and the soft tissues that will receive the tendon are functional, and the joints through which the tendons will pass are mobile and stable.
How A Foot Tendon Transfer Is Performed
As the name implies, a tendon transfer procedure involves the transferring of a healthy tendon to replace the damaged tendon in order to restore normal foot movement and function. The procedure is typically performed under general anesthesia, with the surgeon making a small incision in order to expose the damaged tendon.
Next, the surgeon will identify a healthy tendon and rerouted it through soft tissues and bones before suturing it to another bone in the foot. Once the tendon has been securely fastened, the incision sites are closed and your foot will be placed in a splint, which you’ll wear for 1-2 weeks before transitioning to a cast or protective boot for the next 12 weeks.
The majority of your recovery will take place at home, as you’ll be expected to be non-weight bearing for at least six weeks after surgery to allow the tendon to heal. You will also partake in physical therapy for a number of weeks during this time period to strengthen the muscles in the area and help the tissues improve their function. You can return to light activities around the three-month mark, but return to physical activities and athletics can take anywhere from 6-12 months after tendon transfer surgery.
For more information about the procedure or the recovery process, or to talk to a foot specialist about a different foot issue you’re experiencing, reach out to Dr. McDonald and his team today at (860) 244-8889.