The Safety and Effectiveness of the Percutaneous Flexor Tenotomy in Healing Neuropathic Apical Toe Ulcers in the Outpatient Setting

Foot Ankle Spec. 2020 Apr;13(2):123-131. doi: 10.1177/1938640019843314. Epub 2019 Apr 19.


Percutaneous flexor tenotomy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves cutting one or both flexor digitorum tendons underneath the toe. It is an alternative to open surgical procedures performed in an operating theatre. This project is a prospective case series investigating the utility, effectiveness, and participant satisfaction of the percutaneous flexor tenotomy when performed in the outpatient setting. People with diabetes, digital flexion deformity, and loss of protective sensation with an apical ulcer or preulcerative lesion presenting to the Austin Health Foot Ulcer Specialist Outpatient Clinic were enrolled in the study. The procedure was performed under sterile technique with an 18-gauge needle or fine scalpel blade. Participants were reviewed weekly until the incision and/ or ulcer healed. Participants were then followed up at 3 and 6 months. Time to ulcer healing, reulceration rate, frequency of complications, and patient satisfaction were recorded. There were 11 toe ulcers and 41 preulcerative lesions. A total of 76 tenotomy procedures were performed on the 23 participants across 35 episodes of care. The mean time to ulcer healing following tenotomy was 10.2 ± 4.3 days. There were no recurrences of ulceration. The infection rate per episode of care was 2.8%. There were 11 toes (14.5%) that sustained a transfer lesion post the index procedure. The mean time to development of a transfer lesion was 95.5 ± 98.1 days. All participants strongly agreed that they were satisfied with the outcome of the procedure. The flexor tenotomy is an effective procedure to expedite the healing of apical toe ulcers in people with loss of protective sensation and flexion digital deformity. It has a low infection rate and high patient satisfaction rate when performed in the outpatient setting. There is a moderate risk of transfer preulcerative lesions to an adjacent digit. Levels of Evidence: Level IV: Prospective case series.

Keywords: diabetic foot; flexor tenotomy; minimal invasive surgery; wound healing.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Foot Ulcer / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outpatients
  • Safety
  • Tendons / surgery*
  • Tenotomy / methods
  • Toes*
  • Treatment Outcome