Tendon grafts are used during surgical procedures for a variety of reasons in the foot and ankle. The grafts are usually taken from the patient’s own healthy body or from donated tendon. Typically tendon grafts are used following traumatic injuries, most commonly an Achilles tendon rupture, or for stabilization of the lateral ligaments of a sprained ankle.
Two different theories exist on what happens with the donor tendon as it incorporates with an existing tendon. Some believe that the donor tendon dies off (necrosis) but acts as a strut for ingrowing tendon cells, whereas others belive the donor tendon remains intact and alive. The graft is usually attached with a strong suture. Usually by 3 weeks there is sufficient strength across the gap of the two tendons to permit gliding along the sheath. Typically full weight will not be put on a foot or ankle that has been grafted for at least 7 to 8 weeks. Frequently your podiatric surgeon will place a cast on the foot or ankle to keep the tendons immobilized (resting).