Tendons are rope-like fibers that connect muscles to bone. Tendon transfer surgery is a procedure that can be used to restore function to a muscle or tendon that no longer works due to injury or nerve damage. During the procedure, a neighboring tendon is ‘borrowed’ from an area where it is not necessary and repositioned to function in place of the damaged muscle or tendon.
Tendon transfer surgery can be performed on the arms, hands, feet, or other areas of the body where a muscle becomes unable to pull on its tendon. A nearby tendon is detached from its bone, but kept connected to its muscle, nerves, and blood supply. The loose end is connected to the bone that the patient could not move. After the attachment heals, the patient will be able to move that part of the body by flexing the newly connected muscle.
One of the benefits to tendon transfer surgery is that it does not have to be performed right away after an injury. It can be successful even if the affected area has been paralyzed for years. It does take time to retrain the brain to use a different muscle for movement, but the surgery is a powerful option to restore needed motion.