Research Article| Volume 60, ISSUE 4, P360-367, April 2007

Surgical treatment and results in 17 cases of open lacerations of the extensor hallucis longus tendon


      There is a scarcity of information on extensor hallucis longus tendon injuries and published studies frequently offer conflicting treatment recommendations and results.

      Patients and methods

      This paper reports on the treatment and results of open lacerations of the extensor hallucis longus tendon in 17 patients treated by a plastic surgeon over a period of 12 years. All injuries occurred due to industrial accidents. All patients were males with a mean age of 30 years (range=21–49 years). All zones of tendon injury were represented except zones 2 and 5. Sixteen patients underwent surgical exploration within 24 h of injury and one patient had a delayed repair using a tendon graft. The laceration of the tendon was complete in 15 patients, and in these patients, the tendon repair was protected for 6 weeks using k-wires to the big toe and short-leg walking cast. The remaining two patients had partial tendon lacerations and were treated conservatively (without tendon suturing) and immediate unrestricted mobilisation. One patient had significant soft tissue loss requiring reverse sural artery flap cover. At final follow-up (mean=3 months), the results of tendon repair were assessed as per the grading system of Lipscomb and Kelly, and the AOFAS hallux score for pain (maximum score of 40 points indicating no pain) and for functional capability (maximum score of 45 points).


      All patients healed with no infections or painful neuromas. Two patients experienced prolonged mild aching pain in the foot on walking, but the pain eventually resolved in both patients. All patients returned back to work 2.5–5 months after surgery. As per Lipscomb and Kelly's grading system, the result was graded as good in four patients and fair in the remaining 13 patients. No poor results were seen. The AOFAS hallux pain score was 40 points in all patients and the mean functional capability score was 42.1 points (range=40–45 points).


      A large series of extensor hallucis longus tendon lacerations is reported. Treatment and the methods of immobilisation are given for various zone and injury types. Although it is difficult to obtain a completely normal range of motion of the big toe after surgery, all patients are expected to recover good active extension and return back to work pain-free.


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