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Achilles Tendon Repair

The Achilles tendon is a thick tendon in the back of the leg that connects your calf muscles to your heel. It is the largest tendon in the body and plays an important role in your foot’s ability to push off against the ground when you walk, jump, or run. While the Achilles tendon is extremely strong and can withstand tremendous forces associated with jumping or running, it is still susceptible to injury.

Most Common Achilles Tendon Injuries

There are two different types of injuries that most commonly impact the Achilles tendon:

  • Tendinitis
  • Rupture

Tendinitis generally occurs from overuse of the Achilles tendon or a sudden increase in activity, which places repeated stress on the tendon and causes it to degenerate. Common symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling along the tendon and on the back part of your heel. While painful, Achilles tendinitis is less severe than a rupture.

A ruptured Achilles tendon typically occurs due to a sudden, strong force during physical activity that causes the tendon to tear. Symptoms are similar to Achilles tendinitis and commonly involve severe pain and swelling along the back of the ankle. In addition, you will generally hear a popping sound when the tendon tears. After a ruptured Achilles tendon, you may be unable to bend your foot downward or push off from your foot.

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Diagnosing an Achilles Tendon Injury

diagnosing an Achilles tendon injury Before our orthopedic surgeons can recommend the appropriate treatment plan, they must first diagnose the specific Achilles tendon injury you’ve experienced. The diagnostic process consists of a physical exam and imaging tests to determine whether a rupture occurred.

During the physical exam, our orthopedic surgeons will:

Imaging tests to confirm the nature of your Achilles tendon injury may include:

When Should I Consider Achilles Tendon Repair Surgery?

In most instances, surgery will be required if you rupture your Achilles tendon. Surgery may be necessary to treat tendinitis, but generally, more conservative treatments will be tried before surgery is recommended. These include:

  • Resting your foot
  • Ice
  • Pain medications
  • Restricting mobility in your foot using a brace
  • Physical therapy

If your symptoms haven’t improved after these treatments, surgery may be recommended to allow your Achilles tendinitis to heal.

Achilles Tendon Repair Surgery

Achilles tendon surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis using regional anesthesia to numb the leg. During Achilles tendon repair surgery, our orthopedic surgeons make an incision at the back of the ankle. Damaged portions of the tendon are removed, and any tears in the tendon are reconnected using strong sutures. A tendon graft may sometimes be needed to reconstruct a fully torn Achilles tendon.

There are several different techniques used for Achilles tendon repair surgery. Our orthopedic surgeons will recommend the right technique for your specific injury.

Surgical Techniques to Repair a Ruptured Achilles Tendon

Surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon will be performed using one of the following techniques:

  • Percutaneous Achilles Repair – This minimally invasive technique uses several small incisions instead of one long incision to facilitate a quicker recovery, prevent wound complications, and reduce scarring.
  • Open Achilles Repair – One longer incision is made along the back of the calf to locate the partially ruptured tendon or the ends of a fully torn tendon.
  • Tendon Transfer – This technique may be necessary if your Achilles tendon has suffered extensive damage, is too short to be reattached, or is completely severed. Our orthopedic surgeons will reposition the tendon responsible for flexing the big toe, located along the back of the calf and the inside of the ankle. This tendon is then sutured to the Achilles to reinforce it.

Surgical Techniques to Repair Achilles Tendinitis

If surgery is required for Achilles tendinitis, one of the following techniques will be used:

  • Gastrocnemius Recession Surgery – This procedure is performed to lengthen one of the two calf muscles to improve Achilles tendon flexibility. It is often recommended for individuals who still have trouble flexing their feet after undergoing months of calf stretches as part of physical therapy.
  • Achilles Debridement – This procedure removes damaged parts of the Achilles tendon and repairs the remaining portion using sutures.
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Recovery After Achilles Tendon Surgery

recovery after Achilles tendon surgery Patience is necessary after Achilles tendon surgery. The recovery process is long and requires diligent rehab with physical therapy to restore proper strength and range of motion to the ankle and foot. Physical therapy typically begins almost immediately after surgery and continues for roughly six months or until you’ve regained full function.

Your foot will typically be immobilized for about three to four weeks after surgery. Crutches will be used during this time to avoid putting weight on the surgically repaired tendon. You will usually wear a splint for the first two to three weeks of this recovery period before being switched to a lighter, removable boot.

After about four weeks, you’ll be given a Controlled Ankle Motion (CAM) boot with heel wedges. This is when you can put weight on your repaired tendon. The wedges will be adjusted each week to decrease the flexion angle through your ankle. This process will continue for four to six weeks. You will generally return to normal shoes approximately eight to ten weeks after surgery.

Full recovery from Achilles tendon surgery can take six to nine months. During this time, you will be able to gradually return to normal activities as directed by our surgeons.

Colorado Advanced Orthopedics Can Help You Restore a Pain Free Life

Colorado Advanced Orthopedics offers many surgical and nonsurgical treatment options to repair an Achilles tendon injury. One of our board-certified orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Alejandro Miranda, has fellowship training in foot and ankle surgery. This specialization ensures you’ll receive the finest Achilles tendon repair treatment available. Dr. Miranda uses the latest techniques and the most advanced technology to enhance the precision of your surgical procedure. This facilitates a smoother recovery, helping you regain full function and restore a pain-free life as quickly as possible.

You’ll also benefit from having our in-house physical therapy team perform your post-surgical physical therapy. Our physical therapists will work closely with Dr. Miranda throughout your rehab, ensuring optimal collaboration of your entire care team throughout recovery. This approach delivers the best possible outcome.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Colorado Advanced Orthopedics serves patients in Meeker and throughout the White River Valley.