What Is It?

Achilles Tendon Repair is a surgical procedure that mends damaged portions of the Achilles tendon, while rebuilding a connection between calf muscles and the heel bone.

The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. Located at the back of your lower leg and ankle, this strong, fibrous cord connects your calf muscles to the heel bone. The Achilles tendon stretches and moves when calf muscles contract, and produces the majority of downward force used by your foot when walking, running, and jumping.

Why Is It Done?

A ruptured Achilles tendon most commonly occurs while attempting physical actions that require explosive acceleration. When the ankle is flexed outside of its typical range of motion in a quick and physical fashion, it can cause the tendon to stretch beyond its capability and tear. Achilles injuries frequently occur due to overuse from athletic participation in intense sports. Direct trauma to the tendon and sudden activation following extended periods of rest are also common ways that an Achilles tendon can become injured. Achilles injuries are easily distinguishable, as ruptures are commonly accompanied by a loud popping sound, sharp and intense pain, and a warming sensation in the back of your lower leg. Along with being incredibly painful, a ruptured Achilles tendon will almost completely diminish your ability to walk properly.

Non-surgical treatments for Achilles tendon injuries involve wearing a cast or walking boot which contains heel elevating wedges. Resting and keeping your leg elevated can help expedite the healing process in less serious injuries, while anti-inflammatory medications manage pain. Most Achilles injuries occur as somewhat freak accidents, but there are a handful of valuable precautions you can take to best avoid such situations. Shoes with strong support help stabilize the Achilles tendon during physical activity. Stretching thoroughly, gradually increasing your level of intensity during a workout, and limiting the amount of uphill running in your regular regimen are other helpful prevention practices.

How Is It Done?

The goal of surgery is to reestablish the connection between your calf muscles and heel bone by repairing and reconnecting the torn portions of your Achilles tendon.

While there are different ways in which surgery to repair an Achilles tendon can be performed, most cases involve a single, large incision in the back of the leg. After finding each end of the ruptured tendon, surgeons use sutures to sew the tendon back together, and then close the incision.

Because of the Achilles’ direct effect on your ability to walk, many patients seek immediate treatment at a hospital’s emergency department following a rupture. Your doctor will discuss your injury, ask for a complete medical history, and conduct physical tests during the diagnosis process. If uncertain whether the tendon has been completely, or only partially torn, your doctor may also conduct an MRI scan of your leg.

Following surgery to repair an Achilles tendon, patients are placed in a cast and temporarily directed not to put weight on the operated leg. Patients are fitted for crutches, a knee scooter, or a wheelchair to provide mobility during early recovery stages, and encouraged to elevate their leg when resting. After a few weeks the cast is removed and patients are positioned into a walking boot and allowed to begin light, weight-bearing exercises. At six weeks most patients began extensive physical therapy programs outside of the boot. Exercise and physical therapy is critical to complete rehabilitation, and dependent on each individual’s response to physical activity. Most patients are able to return to full activity within six months.