An Achilles tendon rupture is a complete or partial tear that occurs when the tendon is stretched beyond its capacity. Forceful jumping or pivoting, or sudden accelerations of running, can
overstretch the tendon and cause a tear. An injury to the tendon can also result from falling or tripping. Achilles tendon ruptures are most often seen in ?weekend warriors? - typically, middle-aged
people participating in sports in their spare time. Less commonly, illness or medications, such as steroids or certain antibiotics, may weaken the tendon and contribute to ruptures.
Your Achilles tendon helps you point your foot downward, rise on your toes and push off your foot as you walk. You rely on it virtually every time you move your foot. Rupture usually occurs in the
section of the tendon located within 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) of the point where it attaches to the heel bone. This section may be predisposed to rupture because it gets less blood flow, which may
impair its ability to heal. Ruptures often are caused by a sudden increase in the amount of stress on your Achilles tendon. Common examples include increasing the intensity of sports participation,
falling from a height, stepping into a hole.
Typically patients present with sudden onset of pain and swelling in the achilles region, often accompanied by a audible snap during forceful dorsiflexion of the foot. A classic example is that of an
unfit 'weekend warrior' playing squash. If complete a defect may be felt and the patient will have only minimal plantar flexion against resistance.
A detailed history, and examination by an appropriately qualified health professional, will allow a diagnosis to be made. An ultrasound or MRI scan can confirm the diagnosis. Other causes of symptoms
in the area, such as those referred from the lumbar spine and local infection, should be excluded.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are two treatment options available which are non-operative and operative. Non-operative treatment involves the use initially of a below-knee plaster with the foot held fully bent downwards.
This usually stays in place for 2 weeks then is changed for a brace(this is a boot from the knee down to the toes with Velcro straps) which should be worn day and night. The brace will be regularly
altered to allow the foot to come up to a more neutral position. The brace will be on for a further 6 weeks. After the 8 weeks you will be referred for physiotherapy to regain movement and calf
strength but will probably need to wear the brace during the day for a further 4 weeks. Non-operative treatment avoids the risks of surgery but the risk of the tendon re-rupturing, which normally
occurs within 3 months of discarding the brace, is 10%.
Surgery is recommended to those who are young to middle-aged and active. The ruptured tendon is sewn together during surgery. This is an outpatient procedure. Afterward the leg is put into a splint
cast or walking boot. Physical therapy will be recommended. In about 4 to 6 months, healing is nearly complete. However, it can take up to a year to return to sports fully.