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What is ligament and tendon reconstruction?

Foot and ankle ligament and tendon reconstruction is surgery that repairs damaged ligaments or tendons in the lower extremity. Tendons are long thin bands that attach your muscles to bones. Ligaments connect bones to each other to support a joint. Tendons can tear partially or completely during a joint injury. Ligaments can tear or stretch and become loose after repeated strains. Tendon and ligament reconstruction can restore joint stability and range of motion.

Normal joint movement requires healthy nerves, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Nerves send signals to muscles to tell them to contract. A joint moves when muscles contract and pull on tendons, moving the bones. Ligaments span the joint and limit how far a joint can move. This protects against dislocation and hyperextension.

Ligaments and tendons are both made of connective tissue, but their structure is different. Ligaments are not designed to stretch. This helps them perform their passive function of limiting joint motion. Tendons, on the other hand, are designed to be elastic and stretch to allow active movement.  

Injuries and other problems with ligaments or tendons can cause joint problems. It is difficult for severely damaged ligaments and tendons to heal on their own.

Ligament and tendon reconstruction is major surgery with serious risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having ligament and tendon reconstruction. 

Types of ligament and tendon reconstruction

The types of ligament and tendon reconstruction include:

  • Direct primary repair, which involves suture or stitches to perform the repair
  • Secondary repair, which involves a graft or tendon transfer to supplement and support the repair
  • Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to ligament and tendon reconstruction. These include:

  • Bone spur removal, which removes an overgrowth of bone that rubs against a tendon
  • Osteotomy, which is the cutting and shifting of bones to correct deformity or bone misalignment
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Nov 5, 2013

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Medical References

Achilles Tendon Repair. Duke University. http://www.dukehealth.org/orthopaedics/services/foot-and-ankle/care-guides/patient-education/achilles-tendon-repair. Accessed June 30, 2013.
Achilles Tendinitis. American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00147. Accessed June 30, 2013.
Lateral Ankle Ligament Reconstruction. Oregon Health & Science University. http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/health/services/ortho/getting-treatment/lateral-ankle-ligament.cfm. Accessed June 30, 2013.
Lateral Ankle Ligament Repair/Reconstruction (Brostrom Procedure). Foot Education. http://www.footeducation.com/lateral-ligament-reconstruction. Accessed June 30, 2013.
Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction. American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00166. Accessed June 30, 2013.
Tendon Surgery Information Sheet. Rush University. http://www.rush.edu/Rush_Document/Foot%20Ankle_Tendon%20Repair_Final_1_11_10.pdf. Accessed June 30, 2013.
Skinner HB, McMahon PJ. Current Diagnosis & Treatment on Orthopedics, 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014.

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