Tendon transfers are surgical procedures that move a tendon from its normal point of anchorage to another. This is done for a number of different reasons. Tendon transfers can correct deformity, improve joint function, or establish a better foot shape.
Before performing any tendon transfer, the orthopedic surgeon and patient have a discussion about the needs and goals of the patient. The patient should have an understanding of the realistic expectation of improvement that can be obtained with a tendon transfer. It is important to understand that a tendon transfer increases function in one place but may cause some limitations in the area from which the tendon was transferred.
Tendon transfers require good healing of the skin and soft tissues. The joints that the tendon will span should be mobile and stable for the tendon transfer to be effective. The muscle that is to be transferred should have adequate strength to perform its new function. At times, tendon transfers are accompanied by other procedures that help realign or balance the foot and ankle.
The orthopedic surgeon balances the need for healing of the tendon transfer with the need to get the patient moving. The surgeon will recommend a postoperative plan that will optimally balance these two requirements. The patient likely will need physical therapy after a tendon transfer has been performed.
With careful preoperative planning by the surgeon and appropriate expectations of the patient, tendon transfers may have a good result. The patient should speak with the orthopedic surgeon about the expectations after surgery with the specific procedure or set of procedures planned.
As with all surgical procedures, complications such as wound infection may occur. Although uncommon, the fixation, or reconnection, of the transferred tendon can fail to heal. This risk may be minimized with a careful postoperative rehabilitation plan that balances healing with movement.
*Source: American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society® http://www.aofas.org