Extensor Tendon Repair Periprocedural Care

Updated: Aug 21, 2017
  • Author: Nicolai B Baecher, MD; Chief Editor: Erik D Schraga, MD  more...
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Periprocedural Care


Many emergency departments (EDs) and acute care facilites have moved to using prepackaged laceration kits. These may contain much (though typically not all) of the equipment needed for the repair of extensor tendons.  Additionally, at some facilities, sterile instrumentation may have to be requested from the operating room (OR).

Equipment used for anesthesia includes the following:

  • Povidone-iodine solution (see the image below)
  • Syringe, 10 mL
  • Needle, 25 or 27 gauge
  • Local anesthetic solution
Povidone-iodine solution, 1% lidocaine, 10-mL syri Povidone-iodine solution, 1% lidocaine, 10-mL syringe, and 25-gauge needle.

Equipment used for wound irrigation and preparation includes the following:

  • Sterile normal saline (0.9% NaCl) solution, 500 mL
  • Irrigation set (see the image below)
  • Syringe, 60 mL
  • Angiocatheter, 16 gauge
  • Intravenous tubing
  • Face shield
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Bright overhead lighting
Irrigation equipment. Irrigation equipment.

Equipment used for tendon and skin repair includes the following:

  • Sterile gloves
  • Sterile drapes
  • Gauze pads, 4 × 4
  • Needle holder
  • Skin hooks (2)
  • Retractors
  • Sharp and blunt-nosed scissors
  • Small hemostats, several
  • Single-toothed forceps
  • Nonabsorbable, synthetic, and braided suture (3-0, 4-0, or 5-0) - Typical examples of appropriate brands of suture material are TiCron and Ethibond
  • Nylon suture (4-0 or 5-0) for skin repair - Avoid silk suture (which has high tissue reactivity) and chromic suture (which dissolves before the tendon heals adequately); the exception is in young children and infants, in whom the use of chromic suture for skin closure is acceptable, given their healing rates and their poor psychological reaction to suture removal in the clinic

Equipment used for wound care and splinting includes the following (see the image below):

  • Topical antibiotic ointment
  • Gauze pads
  • Elastic gauze bandage or tape
  • Splint material (fiberglass, plaster, or aluminum foam)
  • Shears
Shears, aluminum splint, tape. Shears, aluminum splint, tape.

Patient Preparation


Adequate anesthesia is required for thorough wound exploration and tendon manipulation. Local digital or field blocks are typically adequate for this purpose in the acute care setting.

Use lidocaine 1% or 2% or bupivacaine 0.25% or 0.5% without epinephrine (see Local Anesthetic Agents, Infiltrative Administration). Some hand surgeons are becoming increasingly comfortable with using manufacturer-prepared local anesthetics with epinephrine (in a 1:100,000 ratio). [12, 13]  However, unless the physician is comfortable and experienced with their use, these preparations should be avoided out of concern for the possibility of causing ischemic injury to a digit whose blood supply may already be compromised by an acute injury. Epinephrine should not be used in the setting of tobacco use or peripheral vascular disease.

Use local or digital nerve block for finger injuries (see Hand, Anesthesia: Blocks). Use field or regional nerve block for hand injuries (see Local Anesthesia and Regional Nerve Block Anesthesia).

For operative surgical repairs, wide-awake surgery is becoming increasingly popular and is now well accepted. In this approach, patients are not sedated, analgesia is with lidocaine-epinephrine (local only), and a tourniquet is only occasionally used as needed. The acronym WALANT (Wide Awake Local Anesthetic and No Tourniquet) is often used for this technique. A prime benefit of WALANT is that the patient is able to move his or her fingers during the operative repair, which enables intraoperative verification of the adequacy of the repair. [12, 13, 14]

Place the patient supine on a procedure table or a gurney with an attached armboard. Make sure that the patient is in a comfortable position so as to limit movement during the procedure. Place the patient’s hand level with his or her body or heart.