What happens to patients with flexor tendon repairs?
Although we study and write about flexor tendon repairs frequently in hand surgery, the truth is that they are relatively uncommon injuries. Uncommon, but they can be devastating.
The usual mechanism for my patient population in New York City, is either broken glass (wine glass, pitcher, glass vase, etc) or cutting something that you are holding in your hand and missing (often an avocado).
The majority of patients with cut flexor tendons do better if the tendon is repaired. We were interested in seeing how common cut tendons were fixed surgically in NY State and what the complication and reoperation rates were for those patients undergoing repair.
What did we find? Well, first off, flexor tendon lacerations were rare. The US Rare Disease Act defines a rare ‘disease’ as any condition affecting 1 in 1500 Americans. Flexor tendon lacerations in NY State affect 0.05 patients per 1500!
In addition to their rarity, most patients did not undergo a reoperation. Only 6% underwent another operation, usually to perform a tenolysis (remove scar tissue around the repaired tendon) or a re-repair for a ruptured tendon.
This does not mean to say that everyone did well. Although we didn’t have access to which patients did ‘well’ and had a good result and those that did not, the fact that most did not require another operation is a good indication that many of these patients likely had functional recovery.
What does this mean for you as a patient? If you have a cut flexor tendon, get it fixed and rest assured that there is a good chance you will have a functional, but not perfect result.