Information for patients
This leaflet can be made available in other formats including large print, CD and Braille and in languages other than English, upon request.
What is an extensor tendon?
The extensor tendons run from the muscle in the forearm into the hand where they attach to the bones of your fingers. These tendons enable you to straighten your fingers. A cut to these tendons will cause a serious injury and will require regular therapy to regain movement.
What is an extensor tendon repair?
You need to have a surgery to repair one or more of the extensor tendons of the fingers. After surgery, your tendon is very weak and can break easily. Your hand will require care and attention for the next three months in order to allow it to heal back to full strength without the risk of it breaking.
What can I expect after surgery?
- Large bandage (do not remove).
- Swelling around the area of injury. This is normal and should reduce over time. Elevating your hand above your heart can reduce.
- Some pain which can be normal immediately after surgery. Please discuss this with a Hand Therapist.
- An appointment in Hand Therapy within a week.
How do I care for my wound?
Please do not remove any dressings yourself. Your Hand Therapist will assess and change your dressing at each appointment.
The wound on your hand may now be bigger than the original cut as to allow the surgeon to fully inspect and repair the damage. Care has to be taken in order to minimise the risk of infection and this can be helped by keeping the dressing clean and dry.
You will have special stitches in the tendon as well as stiches in the skin. Stitches in the skin are either dissolvable, in 2-3 weeks, or removable that will be taken out of by your Hand Therapist between 10 and 14 days after your operation.
It is very important you monitor your wound for signs of infection e.g. redness, swelling, oozing, smell and contact the department, G.P. or Urgent Care Centre as soon as possible.
What exercise can I do?
After your operation, you will follow a strict rehabilitation programme for 12 weeks. At your first appointment with the Hand Therapist, you will be given specific exercises that should be completed regularly.
Please do not try your own exercises as this could cause damage to the tendon.
How do I care for my splint?
You will be provided with a plastic splint in order to protect your tendon repair. The hand Therapist will make you a splint to wear on your injured hand and will supply you with an “off the shelf’’ wrist splint. Both splints must be worn continuously for 3 weeks. You will be able to perform light activities with your injured hand whilst wearing both splints (see activity table)
- DO NOT remove the splint.
- Keep the splint clean and dry – cover in plastic bag for showering / bathing.
- DO NOT try to make alterations to your splint.
- Keep away from sources of heat.
- You may clean the outside with baby wipes / a damp cloth.
Please be aware that wearing a splint continuously can cause irritation of the skin on your hand. You may notice some rubbing or digging in. If this becomes red, dry or blistered please contact the hand therapist.
How do I care for my scar?
The Hand Therapist will demonstrate and advise you when to start scar massages. This is normally once the wound has healed and is scabbed over. Scar massage is useful as it helps to breakdown the scar tissue. This allows the scar and tendon to move more freely and reduces the risk of the scar becoming sensitive.
To complete a scar massage:
- Apply firm pressure in circular movements along the length of the scar.
- Use non perfumed cream.
- Complete for 5 minutes at a time at least 4 times a day.
When can I return to normal activities?
Your repaired tendon is weak for approximately twelve (12) weeks after the operation and care has to be taken to protect it.
Your hand therapist will guide you as to when you can return to normal activities but the table on the following page gives you some examples.
|LIGHT (6 weeks)||MEDIUM (8 weeks)||HEAVY (12 WEEKS)|
|Washing/shaving/make up||Sweeping up||Hand washing or hanging out clothes|
|Putting on light clothes||Unscrewing jars/tins||Using a knife|
|Fastening zips/buttons||Hanging washing out||Gardening|
|Combing hair||Washing up and wiping up||Carrying shopping|
|Tying show laces||Ring pull can opening||Lifting boxes|
|Using a knife/fork/spoon but not cutting meat||Ironing|
|Other activities||Other activities||Cooking and lifting pans and kettle|
|Reading newspaper||Holding a pint of liquid or a cup of tea||Making bed|
|Playing cards||Using scissors||Vacuuming|
|Using telephone||Using a towel||Lifting children|
|Handling money||Opening and closing door handles||Lifting heavy objects|
|Using remote control||Using key to open door||Cleaning car|
|Writing and typing||Driving||Decorating|
|Dusting||Putting on socks||Sport- golf/swimming/gym/cycling/running/football/rugby|
|Switching on light switch||reading a book||Cleaning car|
Do I need to take time off work?
Your therapist will discuss with you when it is appropriate to return to your normal work and hobbies.
Please speak to your G.P. if you require a sick note. The table below details when you may expect to return.
|Type of work / activity||Approximate time off|
|Office based/ light duties||0-3 weeks|
|Manual work||12 weeks|
|Contact sport||12 weeks|
If you need any further advice regarding:
Your appointment with the consultant.
The surgery you have had.
Your wound, dressing or cast.
University Hospital of North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust
Orthopaedic Outpatient Department North Tees
Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Telephone: 01642 624473
Orthopaedic Outpatient Department Hartlepool
Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 a.m.
Telephone: 01429 522590
Hand Therapy Team
Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
North Tees Hospital -1st Floor, Hand Therapy, North Wing
Hartlepool Hospital – Ground Floor, Physiotherapy Outpatients Department
Telephone: 01429 522471
Comments, concerns, compliments or complaints
Patient Experience Team (PET)
We are continually trying to improve the services we provide. We want to know what we’re doing well or if there’s anything which we can improve, that’s why the Patient Experience Team (PET) is here to help. Our Patient Experience Team is here to try to resolve your concerns as quickly as possible. The office is based on the ground floor at the University Hospital of North Tees if you wish to discuss concerns in person. If you would like to contact or request a copy of our PET leaflet, please contact:
Telephone: 01642 624719
Freephone: 0800 092 0084
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Telephone: 01642 383551
Email: [email protected]Privacy Notices
This leaflet has been produced in partnership with patients and carers. All patient leaflets are regularly reviewed, and any suggestions you have as to how it may be improved are extremely valuable. Please write to the Clinical Governance team, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospital of North Tees, TS19 8PE or:
Email: [email protected]
Leaflet Reference: PIL1023
Date for Review: 08/03/2026