Underused surgery may improve hand, elbow function for quadriplegics: 5 insights

Written by Jessica Kim Cohen | August 25, 2016 | Print  |

A tendon transfer surgery that significantly improves hand and elbow function for quadriplegics is underused, according to a recent article in the journal Hand Clinics.

The article's author — hand surgeon Michael S. Bednar, MD, a professor in the department of orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation at Loyola University Chicago's Stritch School of Medicine —has performed tendon transfers for about 60 patients.


Here's what you need to know:


1. In tendon transfer surgery, a surgeon redirects the tendon of a spare muscle to a muscle that is paralyzed.


2. The procedure does not restore full hand and elbow function, however, a patients' pinch strength and grasp strength following tendon transfer surgery is high enough to perform many daily activities.


3. To be eligible for this procedure, a patient must not have any acute or chronic medical conditions like infections, pressure sores or medical instability. The number of functions that can be restored also depends upon how many working muscles a patient has available for transfer.


4. However, among those who are eligible for tendon transfer, few patients receive the procedure.


5. Dr. Bednar says the main barrier to patients receiving tendon transfers is a lack of communication between medical specialists. Other reasons include patients' limited access to care or lack of awareness about the procedure.


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