Achilles Tendon Rupture: causes, symptoms and treatments

Updated 4/7/2022
Dr. Baravarian discusses Achilles tendon ruptures and the progressive treatment options available at UFAI.

What's an Achilles Rupture?

 

The Achilles tendon is a very strong fibrous cord that connects the very powerful muscles in the back of your calf to your heel bone.

If you overstretch your Achilles tendon, it can tear. But if you completely tear through the tendon, it is called an Achilles tendon rupture.

 

An Achilles rupture is often the result of forceful jumping, pivoting, or running "gone wrong." A fall or trip can also cause the Achilles to rupture.

 

 

What are the Symptoms of a Ruptured or Torn Achilles?

Bryan discusses his recent minimally invasive bilateral Achilles tendon tear repair surgery at UFAI.

Sudden, sharp pain in the back of the ankle is usually experienced with an acute Achilles tendon rupture. Patients may even feel a “pop” of the tendon and some report that it “felt like a shot” or that they thought that someone “kicked the back of their leg”. 

 

Other times it may not actually hurt much at all, but the patient can no longer “push off” while walking stairs or trying to stand up. Walking may be difficult and standing on your toes may not even be possible. Patients may experience a loss of strength and feel a palpable gap in the tendon.

 

Complete ruptures most often occur in individuals between 30 and 45 years of age with the majority of injuries sustained during sporting activities. Tendon tears are can also in patients with systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, chronic hemodialysis, and many others. Other factors correlated with potential Achilles tendon tears are steroid use, fluoroquinolone antibiotics, and previous injury to the tendon.

 

How is a Torn Achilles Tendon Diagnosed?

When diagnosing an Achilles tendon tear, podiatrists look for swelling, bruising, possible defect near the region of rupture, and test the functionality of the calf muscle. The integrity of the tendon can be tested by simply squeezing the calf muscle while the patient is lying on their stomach on the exam table. An MRI may be performed if the diagnosis is uncertain or to assist when determining the best treatment option.

 

Partially Torn Achilles Treatment

Achilles Tendon Treatment, Podiatry Today
UFAI's Dr. Baravarian discusses Achilles tendon treatment in Podiatry Today.

The treatment for a rupture of the Achilles tendon is determined by the severity of the tear. Nonsurgical treatments may be an option if the Achilles is only partially torn. These treatments include a walking boot or cast that will immobilize the tendon during the healing process. It is important to note that conservative treatments are associated with a high rate of re-injury, or re-rupture, of the Achilles.

 

Surgical repair of a partially torn Achilles tendon can be performed but the treatment often will depend on the extent of the injury. A partially torn Achilles that is acute can be repaired by sewing the torn area back together. If the partial tear is chronic and the tendon has an abundance of scar tissue, this scar tissue may need to be removed surgically.

 

Occasionally, a graft can be wrapped around the tendon’s defect to help augment the repair. This is done as outpatient surgery and includes many benefits over conservative options, including a reduced rate of re-rupture, improved muscle function of the ankle, and quick return to pre-injury activities levels.

 

Patients generally wear a cast for 3 weeks to immobilize the Achilles while it heals and physical therapy is recommended to strengthen the tendon and improve range of motion.

 

Ruptured Achilles Tendon Treatment

If an Achilles is completely ruptured, surgery is generally required to reattach the tendon. 

 

What is the PARS Procedure?

In this video, a UFAI Achilles rupture patient demonstrates Achilles tendon strength just 3 months after the PARS procedure.

At the University Foot and Ankle Institute, we utilize the percutaneous Achilles repair system (or PARS) minimally invasive technique for a faster and more aesthetically pleasing recovery than traditional methods.

 

The benefits of the minimally invasive PARS surgical technique allows for a very small incision, much less scarring, and a cleaner, speedier recovery. Read more about the PARS procedure here.

 

Untreated Achilles Tendon Ruptures 

If a ruptured Achilles tendon has been neglected or misdiagnosed, the muscle will retract and a simple end-to-end repair of the tendon is often no longer possible. In these cases, the calf muscle can be lengthened to reattach the two ends, or a tendon transfer can be performed to reconstruct the Achilles tendon.

 

In cases where a tendon transfer is needed, the flexor tendon to the big toe is harvested and attached to the heel bone to function as the Achilles tendon.

 

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Achilles Rupture Patient Review, in his own words...

The following five-star Yelp review was posted by University Foot and Ankle patient, Mark:

5 Star Yelp review, University Foot and Ankle Institute

Unquestionably The Best!

 

I am a 62-year-old mountain climber and I ruptured my Achilles tendon. Due to my insurance, treatment was delayed for almost a year. Most of the doctors I visited were very negative about my prognosis. Dr. Baravarian was not.

 

My Achilles was a complete write off so he had to perform a flexor tendon transfer. The end result couldn't have been better. Against all odds, I was walking in 2 months and back climbing in 4. I experienced ZERO pain or negative after-effects.

 

His staff and associated PT group are a first-rate team. Dr. Baravarian provided honest, direct, and lucid explanations about the procedure and cooperated with my accelerated rehabilitation process (despite his reservations). Had I been a professional athlete I wouldn't have received better care. It is impossible to rate Dr. Baravarian and his team high enough.

 

Read Mark's review on Yelp here.

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Read more about other Achilles Tendon Injuries.

 

Why UFAI is the Best Choice for Achilles Tendon Injuries

 

The physicians and surgeons at University Foot and Ankle Institute are nationally recognized leaders in the treatment of Achilles tendon injuries. They have worked closely in the development of new minimally invasive surgical techniques including the PARS technique. The PARS technique is a minimally invasive state-of-the-art technology that results in higher success rates, less scarring, and a quicker, stronger recovery.

 

While we always opt for the most conservative treatment, you can be assured that you are being truly cared for by University Foot and Ankle Institute you have decades of experience and state-of-the-art techniques in your corner.

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