Range of movement, power and pinch grip strength post flexor tendon repair
Background: Flexor tendon injuries (FTI) are common hand injuries that pose a challenge to the multi-disciplinary team. Despite being the most researched topic in hand literature, the optimal surgical and post-operative treatment of FTI remains unclear and results after flexor tendon repair (FTR) continue to be unpredictable.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the range of movement (ROM), power and pinch grip strength post FTR and to establish factors that may affect these.
Method: The study was conducted at an academic hospital in Gauteng, South Africa, between January 2013 and September 2015. At one, three and six months post FTR, the ROM of the injured and contralateral finger(s) were measured. At three and six months post FTR the participants’ bilateral power and pinch grip strength were also measured.
Results: One hundred and twenty-six participants (n=126) enrolled in the study. There was a drop-out rate of 48%, leaving 65 participants that completed six months’ follow-up: 41 males (63%) and 24 females (37%) with mean age of 32 years (SD±10, n=65). Out of 65 participants, 2% (n=1) had an excellent outcome, 32% (n=21) a good outcome, 32% (n=21) a fair outcome and 34% (n=22) a poor outcome with regard to ROM. At six months post FTR the average power grip was 60% (SD±25, n=65) of the unaffected hand, while the average pinch grip was 52% (SD±42, n=65) of the unaffected hand. Sixty-eight per cent (n=44) of patients had post-operative complications: the most common complication was tenodesis/adhesions (25%, n=16), followed by contracture (22%, n=14). Four patients (6%) had ruptures and 11 (17%) underwent further surgery. Factors that had a positive effect on outcome at six months post FTR were: younger age, no associated injury, less duration between injury and surgery, having controlled active motion instead of passive motion occupational therapy protocol, and not having a language barrier. Injury in zone IV was associated with worse ROM and power grip strength than other zones.
Conclusion: Although there were some promising outcomes, during this period participants did not consistently achieve the good or excellent outcomes that are achieved in some developed countries.
Level of evidence: Level 4