If you or a loved one has suffered from a ruptured Achilles tendon, surgery from La Peer Health Systems can help you or the injured person regain the ability to walk normal again and participate in your favorite activities. Learn more about ruptured Achilles tendon surgery and what it’s like to go through the procedure and recovery process.
What is the Achilles Tendon?
The Achilles tendon is a tough band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It is the largest and strongest tendon in the body, and is responsible for allowing us to balance on our toes when walking, running, or jumping. Despite being strong, the Achilles tendon can become injured as a result of its limited blood supply and the high level of tension put on it.
An Achilles tendon rupture is a complete rupture of the Achilles tendon that causes the tendon to make a pop sound. It is immediately followed by pain and swelling of the lower leg. A ruptured Achilles tendon requires surgery to treat, or, long-term immobilization of the ankle.
Causes of Ruptured Achilles Tendon
A rupture of the Achilles tendon usually occurs in the section of tendon situated within 2.5 inches to where it attaches to the heel bone. This section of tendon is more prone to tearing due to poor blood flow.
Achilles tendon ruptures are often caused by a sudden increase in the pressure and stress put on the Achilles tendon, which can occur after:
- Falling from height
- Stepping into a hole suddenly
- Increasing the intensity of a strenuous activity or sport
The Achilles tendon helps you stand on your toes, point your feet downwards, push off from your feet, and generally move your foot around. A ruptured Achilles tendon will impact your ability to walk and move your foot.
Symptoms of a Ruptured Achilles Tendon
- It is possible to have no signs that you ruptured your Achilles tendon, but common symptoms include:
- Pain and swelling near the heel
- The feeling of having been kicked in the calf
- Not being able to point the foot downward or push off from the foot
- Not being able to rise up on the toes
- A popping or snapping sound
Treatment Options for a Ruptured Achilles Tendon
Surgery is the most common form of treatment for a ruptured Achilles tendon. There are two main types of surgeries available:
- open surgery that involves a single, large incision in the back of the leg
- percutaneous surgery that involves several small incisions.
In both types of Achilles tendon surgeries, the surgeon sews the tendon back together.
Who Can Have Achilles Tendon Surgery?
Ruptured Achilles tendon surgery is best for those who are healthy and active and wish to return to activities like jogging, running, hiking, dancing, biking, etc. after the surgery. Less active patients may also be a candidate for surgery, and your orthopedic surgeon will help you determine if surgery is a good option for you.
Those who should not have ruptured Achilles tendon surgery include those with an active infection or unhealthy skin around the site of the injury, and those not healthy enough to undergo surgery. Additional contraindications for surgery include patients with diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, patients who smoke, patients who use steroids, and those who cannot follow post-operative care instructions.
Preparing for Ruptured Achilles Tendon Surgery
Talk with your orthopedic surgeon about how to prepare for your upcoming surgery. You should let them know about any medications you take, including over-the-counter medications. You may need to reduce your dosage or stop taking your medications altogether before the procedure, especially blood thinners. Smokers will need to stop before the surgery, as smoking can affect healing. Imaging tests may also be given before the procedure, which may include ultrasounds, X-rays, or MRI.
On the night before your surgery, you should not eat or drink anything after midnight to reduce any risks associated with the anesthesia.
You should arrange to have someone take you home after the surgery, and should plan on having someone at home helping you do normal tasks like walking. Walking won’t be possible for a while after surgery.
Ruptured Achilles Tendon Surgery Process
Ruptured Achilles tendon surgery often takes a couple of hours. During the procedure, you may be given spinal anesthesia to numb you from the waist down in addition to sedation. The surgeon will make one or multiple incisions through the skin and muscle of your calf. If you have minimally invasive surgery, a smaller incision will be made and the surgeon may use a tiny camera to guide them through the surgery. The surgeon will then remove parts of the damaged tendon or repair the rupture in the tendon. The surgeon may remove another tendon from your foot to replace part or all of the Achilles tendon. The incision will be closed with sutures.
Recovering from Ruptured Achilles Tendon Surgery
Surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon is often an outpatient surgery, which means patients can go home the same day. For a few hours following the procedure the surgeon will monitor you to make sure no complications arise. You will likely wake up with your ankle in a splint to prevent it from moving.
Pain is expected during the first few days after surgery. Ruptured Achilles tendon recovery involves pain medication to help ease the discomfort, and keeping your leg elevated as often as possible to help reduce pain and swelling. If you develop a fever or pain that worsens, tell your doctor right away.
Patients typically return to their doctor about 10 days after surgery to have stitches removed. Your doctor may replace your splint with a cast. Your doctor will also give you instructions for when you can put weight on your leg. They will tell you how to strengthen your ankle and leg as you heal from the surgery. Physical therapy may be a part of your Achilles tendon rupture rehab to help you recover.
Both types of surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon are very successful. More than 80% of patients are able to return to all of the activities and sports they enjoyed before the rupture. There is a small chance that the Achilles tendon could re-rupture, however, this risk is lower after surgery than after non-surgical treatments.
Ruptured Achilles Tendon Surgery in Beverly Hills
If you or a loved one has suffered from a ruptured Achilles tendon, don’t delay in contacting our team of expert orthopedic surgeons at La Peer Health Systems located in Los Angeles. Learn more about our treatment options and how we can help you recover from your injury. Get in touch with our office by calling 855-360-9119, or use our handy online form.