The Achilles tendon is the longest and strongest tendon in the body. It is made up of two muscles and connects the muscles to the heel bone. It crosses three joints and works to function on the knee, the ankle and the hindfoot joint called the subtalar joint. The tendon is common to rupture in male “weekend warriors” between the ages of 30 to 50, but it can rupture in women or young athletes as well. The reason is because the tendon has a decreased blood supply in the tendon just above its insertion, which makes it prone to rupture. Other factors can cause weakening of the tendon such as Quinolone oral antibiotics, long term steroid use and connective tissue diseases. When the Achilles ruptures, it will feel as if there was a sharp stab in the back of the lower leg. Walking becomes difficult. The diagnosis of the rupture is through a clinical examination, in office ultrasound diagnostic evaluation and possible MRI. Regaining strength of the Achilles tendon is critical for walking and studies show that long term results of strength and stability are better when the tendon is repaired.
An Achilles tendon rupture can be treated through surgery or casting. Partial tears can be treated with immobilization, physical therapy, heel lifts, icing and possible PRP/Stem cell injection. Surgery is preferred for a complete tear usually when the patient is healthy because surgery will lower the re-rupture rate and improve strength. At the Foot, Ankle and Leg Vein Center we utilize the newest techniques to increase the strength of the tendon during repair. (hypolink to shaq/graft jacket). After repairing the tendon utilizing sutures, we’ll wrap Graft jacket around the tendon. Studies have documented that this will improve the strength of the Achilles tendon. Patients are usually in in a cast or protective boot for approximately six weeks. After that they are allowed to come out of the protective device and gradually increase weight bearing through physical therapy and stretching strengthening.