Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease. The associated involvement of hands and tendons is over 90% and impairs overall function. In the course of the disease, the joints are often operated on. During this operation, ruptures of the extensor tendons are found by chance without the patients noticing them. The aim of this retrospective study is the prevalence of extensor tendon rupture. Which tendon is destroyed most frequently? How can the functional outcome be measured after reconstruction?

From 1572 operations on rheumatoid wrists, 61 extensor tendon ruptures were identified in 41 patients. The average time between the first rheumatic symptoms of the hand and surgery was 6.4 years. The average duration of RA was 7.8 years. 26 patients with 27 tendon reconstructions were included in the follow-up with an average postoperative duration of 4.6 years (3 to 14.2 years).

Extensor tendons ruptures typically occurred at mechanically stressed sites. The most frequent rupture was found in the extensor pollicis longus tendon (21 tendons), followed by the small finger extensor tendon (14 tendons). A transfer was performed on 7 tendons. Fifty-five tendon lesions were sutured at other intact tendons. Free grafts were not used. The results in Clayton and QuickDASH scores were significantly different. Functional improvement was consistent with the results of tendon reconstructions in healthy control groups.

In rheumatoid patients, a rupture of an extensor tendon must be expected at 4%. Patients tolerate and compensate this damage for a long time. The function of the hand including the tendon function is the most important factor in assessing the success of the operation. The subjective patient acceptance depends on the progress of the underlying disease, postoperative care (ergotherapy, physiotherapy, orthosis) and the patients' demands.

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