Surgical Information – Procedures
Achilles Tendon Repair
What is Achilles tendon repair?
Achilles tendon repair is surgery to repair a tear in the Achilles tendon, the strong fibrous cord that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. In this procedure, the surgeon makes incisions in the back of the lower leg, removes any damaged tissue and stitches the torn tendon together. Surgery is usually performed within a few days of an Achilles tendon rupture to prevent the formation of scar tissue and allow swelling to subside.
There are two types of repair surgery:
- Open surgery – the surgeon makes a single large incision in the back of the leg
- Percutaneous surgery – the surgeon makes several small incisions rather than one large one
The Achilles tendon is a tough band of fibrous tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. When the calf muscles flex, the Achilles tendon pulls on the heel. The tendon helps you point your foot down, rise on your toes and push off as you walk. Despite its strength, the Achilles tendon is vulnerable to injury due to its limited blood supply and the amount of stress that is often placed on it.
When is surgery recommended?
Most minor to moderate Achilles tendon injuries heal on their own. Repair surgery is recommended if the Achilles has ruptured completely or if the tendons have ruptured more than once. Surgery is often the treatment of choice for competitive athletes or those who wish to return to a highly active lifestyle.
What is the recovery time?
Following surgery, immobilization of the ankle is necessary for several weeks. Patients wear a cast or walking boot to keep the foot pointed down as the tendon heals. The cast is adjusted gradually to a neutral position. Physical therapy is necessary to strengthen leg muscles and the Achilles tendon itself. Most patients return to normal activities within four to six months. As with all surgical procedures, specific recovery time varies by patient and demand.