Tendon Laceration

A tendon is a thick cord that joins muscle to bone and allows the joints to bend and straighten. One of your tendons has been cut. A tendon cut may be partial or complete. A complete cut of the tendon and a severe partial cut will need stitches in the tendon. Those stitches may be placed in the emergency department or they may have to be placed later by a special surgeon. Smaller cuts in the tendon don't need stitches, but the cut in the skin will need to be closed with stitches or staples.

A cut tendon takes about 6 weeks to regain its full strength. Forceful use of the tendon too soon could cause the weakened tendon to tear apart.

Antibiotics may be prescribed to reduce the risk of infection in the tendon.

Some tendons are located close to the nerves. That means it's possible to bruise or cut a nerve when you injure a tendon. This may cause numbness or weakness of the hand or foot. Because of local pain and swelling at the time of injury it can be hard to fully assess nerve function. If you notice numbness or weakness that continues, tell your doctor. A nerve repair can be done 5 to 10 days after injury.

Home care

  • Keep the injured part elevated during the first 48 hours to reduce swelling and pain.

  • If a splint was applied, leave it in place until your next exam (unless told otherwise). Keep the part dry when bathing by covering it in a plastic bag sealed with a rubber band at the top end.

  • If no splint was applied, change the bandage after 24 hours and start cleaning the wound once a day with soap and water.

  • After removing the bandage, wash the area with soap and water. Use a wet cotton swab to loosen and remove any blood or crust that forms. After cleaning, apply a thin layer of over-the-counter antibiotic ointment. This will keep the wound clean and make it easier to remove the stitches or staples. Reapply a fresh bandage.

  • Remove the bandage to shower as usual after the first 24 hours, but don't soak the area in water (no swimming) until the stitches or staples are removed.

  • If antibiotics were prescribed, take them as directed until they are gone or you are told to stop.

  • Take medicines for pain as directed by the healthcare provider.

  • If you are not current on your tetanus vaccine and the object that caused the cut may lead to tetanus, you may be given a tetanus shot.

Follow-up care

You may be referred to a surgeon to evaluate your injury and possibly repair it. If you are, it's important that you keep the appointment. Best results occur when the tendon is repaired in 7 to 10 days.

Stitches placed in the tendon will not need to be removed. Stitches or staples placed in the skin will be removed in 7 to 10 days. Be sure to keep your appointment for removal. At your follow up visit, talk with your healthcare provider about when to start exercising the tendon to prevent stiffness.  

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Wound bleeding not controlled by direct pressure

  • Signs of infection, including increasing pain in the wound, increasing wound redness or swelling, or pus or bad odor coming from the wound

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Stitches or staples come apart or fall out

  • Wound edges re-open

  • Wound changes colors

  • Numbness occurs around the wound 

  • Decreased movement around the injured area

  • Persistent numbness or weakness in the injured extremity

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