How Will Tendon Release and Muscle Lengthening Surgery Help Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy Treatments, Patient Care

Muscle lengthening and tendon releasing are types of orthopedic procedures designed to improve mobility in people with cerebral palsy. These procedures may improve your child’s fine motor skills, ability to walk and sit upright and move more independently in general.

How Does Tendon Release and Muscle Lengthening Work?

Children and adults may experience muscle and tendon contracture because of cerebral palsy. Hamstrings and heel cords are two of the most common muscles to undergo muscle lengthening procedures.

In most tendon release procedures, a muscle-tendon unit that has been shorted or has underdeveloped is lengthened to allow for easier movement. Generally, procedures such as tendon releases and muscle lengthening will take place in a child’s earlier years before age 8.

Tendon and muscle lengthening procedures are often needed after selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery to improve contractures.

The Surgical Process

There are a few ways to perform a tendon release or muscle lengthening procedure, and these methods vary depending on which muscles or tendons are being operated on. Generally, the procedure involves a surgeon making a series of incisions in a muscle or tendon, stretching out the target muscle or tendon, and then joining together the stretched or released muscle or tendon. Once the procedure is complete, the area being operated on may be closed with sutures or staples and then covered with a bandage until it heals.

How invasive the surgery will be depends on the area being operated on. For example, an Achilles tendon lengthening operation may only require a smaller incision because they are more easily accessible. For more difficult tendons, such as those in the wrist, a more intense procedure may be required.

After the surgery, the patient may be required to use immobilizers, casts, or removable boots that keep them from moving the treated muscles or tendons.

What Are the Benefits of Tendon Release and Muscle Lengthening?

Muscle lengthening procedures could make it easier for a child with cerebral palsy to walk. They might also help combat joint problems such as dislocation. By lengthening arm muscles, a child’s fine motor skills may be improved.

Tendon releases performed on contracted or shortened muscles can allow for a freer range of movement, and the procedure may also treat the pain brought on by contracting muscles.

One of the more popular tendon release surgery procedures is Achilles tendon lengthening. The Achilles tendon is an important component of a person’s ability to walk flat-footed without bending the knee. When this tendon contracts, it might cause constant pain.

What Are the Risks of Tendon Release and Muscle Lengthening?

As with any surgery, there is a chance of infection and bleeding with tendon release and muscle lengthening. The general anesthesia used during these surgeries—as well as any surgery that requires it—may cause difficulties in breathing. Surgeries like these also carry the risk of requiring your child to undergo more surgeries in the future.

How Do I Know if Tendon Release and Muscle Lengthening Surgery Are Right for My Child?

An orthopedic professional should be able to help you decide whether your child might benefit from muscle lengthening or tendon release surgery. Your child may be evaluated by a professional team to see if they are candidates for the lengthening or releasing surgery, especially after an SDR surgery.

Here are some signs that your child with cerebral palsy might benefit from these procedures:

  • Chronic joint or muscle pain
  • Muscle contracture
  • Joint deformities
  • Inability to flex tendons or use muscles
  • Shortened range of motion

The proper age for when a child should undergo muscle lengthening or tendon release surgery is debated in the medical field. Find an appropriate healthcare professional you trust who can help you decide when the best time is for your child to undergo these procedures.

What Should I Expect if My Child Undergoes Tendon Release and Muscle Lengthening Surgery?

Your child may be required to spend the night after the surgery at the hospital so that healthcare workers can monitor them. Your child will wake up with an IV.

If your child undergoes tendon release and muscle lengthening surgery, you can expect visits to a certified physical therapist. Physical therapy after one of these surgeries may improve the results of the process. These therapy sessions will focus on strengthening the area that was operated on through stretches and training.
The Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC have helped tens of thousands of families across the United States examine their options in a medical malpractice case. If you believe that your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by the mistake of a healthcare professional, our expert team of lawyers can help you discover the truth and seek the compensation owed to your family. Contact us today to find out if you have a case.



Claire Surles, RN
Reviewed by:
Claire Surles, RN
Registered Nurse

Claire comes to JJS after a 10-year career as a labor and delivery nurse. She dedicated her hospital efforts to advocating for families, providing the safest birthing environment possible as Newborn Admission Nurse at UMMC St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. Her passion for helping those who experienced losses at any stage of gestation led to her appointment as Coordinator of the hospital’s ROOTS perinatal loss program. READ FULL BIO

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