What is an Achilles tendon injury?

The thickest tendon in the body, the Achilles tendon, connects the plantaris, soleus, and gastrocnemius muscles of the calf to the calcaneus (heel bone). These calf muscles rely on this lower leg tendon to conduct the foot movements necessary for us to walk. The Achilles tendon is still susceptible to an injury even though it is the thickest tendon in the body. A rupture of the Achilles tendon typically occurs when the stress load increases suddenly and exceeds the limits of the tendon. This can be from stepping into a hole, a sports-related injury, or falling from a height.

Achilles Tendon Injury | Houston, TX

What is the treatment for an Achilles tendon injury?

A proper warm-up routine involving calf-strengthening exercises can help prevent an Achilles tendon injury altogether. However, in the event of a mild Achilles tendon injury, non-surgical treatment alone may be sufficient in managing any symptoms. Recent studies suggest some patients may be candidates for treating a complete achilles tear with a functional rehabilitation protocol without surgery. Dr. Patel will make this decision after a discussion with the patient on a case-by-case basis. Some non-surgical treatment measures can include an ankle boot or cast, crutches, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).

Patients that experience more complex or severe symptoms of an Achilles tendon injury may require surgical reconstruction of the Achilles tendon. Athletes and younger individuals also tend to favor surgical treatment for an Achilles tendon injury. Repair of the tendon can be performed through a minimally invasive or open surgical procedure. Occasionally, a tendon graft may need to be used for the repair. Dr. Ronak Mukesh Patel, orthopedic ankle doctor, treats patients in Sugar Land, Pearland, and the Houston, Texas area, who have experienced an Achilles tendon injury and are in need of surgical repair.

How is an Achilles tendon repair performed?

Dr. Patel typically performs an Achilles tendon repair as an outpatient procedure as the recovery does not warrant an overnight hospital stay. A nerve block may be administered as anesthesia for this procedure. Dr. Patel begins with an incision along the back of the ankle. Once the area of injury is identified, Dr. Patel excises and removes the damaged tendon. The remaining healthy tendon tissue is then sutured back together.

In some cases, the Achilles tendon may have retracted due to an extended period of time between the injury and surgical repair. In this instance, Dr. Patel will likely use a tendon graft harvested from either the patient (autograft) or donor tissue (allograft) to lengthen the retracted tendon or reconstruct it entirely. These tendon grafts are often sewn into the native tissue in an open surgical setting to improve the chances of a successful recovery.

Achilles Tendon Repair | Houston, TX

What is the recovery period like after an Achilles tendon repair?

The recovery period following an Achilles tendon repair is defined by the patient’s age, activity level, the severity of the injury, and the specific surgical method performed by Dr. Patel. Most patients can expect a full recovery with a return to normal daily and athletic activities in approximately 4 to 6 months. The patient’s willingness to comply with the post-operative care instructions provided by Dr. Patel can also affect the recovery process. Patients in the Houston, Texas area can generally anticipate the following:

  • A walking boot or cast will be worn for 6 to 8 weeks. Weight-bearing will gradually increase as the tendon heals.
  • Swelling of the ankle and lower leg accompanied by bruising and numbness surrounding the incision site.
  • The key to a successful Achilles tendon repair recovery is adhering to and completing the physical rehabilitation program prescribed by Dr. Patel.

Achilles Tendon Repair Surgeon

Not all Achilles tendon injuries require surgery, especially if they are treated early. However if the Achilles tendon injury is severe, surgery may be necessary. This procedure can be done on an outpatient basis and, depending on the injury, may be a minimally invasive operation. Complex foot and ankle surgeon, Doctor Ronak Mukesh Patel,  provides diagnosis as well as surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for patients in Houston, Sugar Land, and Pearland, TX who have suffered an Achilles tendon injury or tear. Contact Dr. Patel’s team today!