Thursday, November 25, 2010


Tenotomy is a very common surgical procedure for children with clubbed feet. This and related procedures are also called tendon release, tendon lengthening, and heel-cord release (for tenotomy of the Achilles tendon). I was lucky to avoid all surgeries with my son, but since my daughters achilles tendon does not appear to be stretching as well as his does I am worried that surgery will be our fate.

A tenotomy happens in 80% of all clubbed foot cases. The surgery involves cutting and stretching of the achilles tendon. Sounds horrible, right? Well, without it a child's feet wouldn't heal properly and they'd end up walking on tip toes for the rest of their life since their calves would be so tight the heel of the foot couldn't reach the ground.

Tenotomy is performed in order to lengthen a muscle that has developed improperly, or become shortened and is resistant to stretch.

Club foot is a common developmental deformity in which the foot is turned inward, with shortening of one or more of the muscles controlling the foot and possibly some bone deformity as well.

A muscle can become shortened and resistant to stretch when it remains in a shortened position for many months. When this occurs, the tendon that attaches muscle to bone can shorten, and the muscle itself can develop fibrous tissue within it, preventing it from stretching to its full range of motion. This combination of changes is called contracture.

During a tenotomy, the tendon is cut entirely or partway through, allowing the muscle to be stretched. Tenotomy may be performed through the skin (percutaneous tenotomy) or by surgically exposing the tendon (open tenotomy). The details of the operation differ for each tendon.

During a percutaneous lengthening of the Achilles tendon, a thin blade is inserted through the skin to partially sever the tendon in two or more places. This procedure is called a Z-plasty, and is very rapid, requiring only a few minutes. It may be performed under local anesthesia.

Tenotomy carries a small risk of excess bleeding and infection. Tenotomy performed under general anesthesia carries additional risks associated with the anesthesia itself.

After tenotomy, the patient may receive pain medication. This may range from over-the-counter aspirin to intravenous morphine, depending on the severity of the pain. Ice packs may also be applied. The patient will usually spend the night in the hospital, especially children with swallowing or seizure disorders, who need to be monitored closely after anesthesia.

Casts are applied to the limb receiving the surgery. Before the cast is applied, the contracted muscle is stretched to its normal or near-normal extension. The cast then holds it in that position while the tendon regrows at its extended length. Braces or splints may also be applied.

After the casts come off (typically two to three weeks), intensive physical therapy is prescribed to strengthen the muscle and keep it stretched out.

Properly performed, tenotomy does not carry the risk of mortality. It may cause temporary pain and bleeding, but these are usually easily managed.


1 comment:

  1. oh my word.. tummy rolling, about to puke... and I am not a weak stomached person... :( I hope she does not need the surgery.. poor baby :( Poor Momma! :(