Children's Hospital Colorado

Tendon Injury in Children

What is a tendon?

A tendon is a band-like tissue that connects muscles to bone. When the muscles tighten, the tendons pull the bones and cause the joints to move, such as in the hand or fingers.

  • For example:
    • Extensor tendons are in the top of the hand and straighten the fingers.
    • Flexor tendons are in the on the palm side of the hand and bend the fingers.
  • A tendon sheath is a little tunnel the tendon slides through. This tunnel keeps the tendon in place next to the bone

What causes a tendon injury in children?

A tendon injury usually occurs when a tendon is damaged, such as being cut or ruptured (torn).

  • The area may not move normally or might feel weak.
  • The area may be painful or tender.
  • There might be numbness or tingling if a nerve was also damaged.

How is a tendon injury diagnosed?

A tendon injury is diagnosed by a physical examination. Your child's doctor might order X-rays to look at the bones, to see if a piece of bone has pulled away and to be sure the bone is in correct position.

How is a tendon injury treated?

  • Treatment depends on the type of injury.
  • Treatment may include splinting alone or splinting and surgery to repair the tendon.
  • Your provider will decide if surgery is needed. Tendon repair surgery is done to bring back normal movement to a joint.
  • A cut flexor tendon usually requires surgery.

What to expect from tendon injury surgery

  • It is best to do surgery to repair a tendon injury as soon as possible (within 7-14 days after the injury).
  • The surgery will be done in the operating room under general anesthesia (the child is put to sleep).
  • Sometimes it is necessary to put the bone in the correct position. Small pins, wires or screws might be used to hold the bone straight while the tendon heals.
  • Sometimes the tendon will need to be sewn together, connecting the ends that are torn apart.
  • If there isn't enough healthy tendon to reconnect, a tendon graft might need to be done. This is when a piece of tendon from another part of the body is used.
  • A tendon transfer (moving one tendon from one area to another) might be useful to bring back function to the area.
  • If a cut in the skin is made during surgery, it is closed with stitches.
  • If your child is sick any time during the week before surgery, it is important to call us to find out if the surgery should be rescheduled.