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Achilles Tendon Ruptures

Yanuarso, MD
Indonesian Army Central Hospital
Achilles: Hero of the Iliad
Led Greeks to conquer Troy
Killed by arrow shot to heel
Hippocrates this tendon if bruised or cut,
causes the most acute fevers, induces
choking, deranges the mind and at length
brings death.
Strongest tendon in the human body
Achilles Tendon
Formed by tendinous portion of
gastrocnemius and soleus
Plantaris lies medial and is distinct tendon
Achilles progresses from round to flat as it
travels distally to insert on calcaneal
Fibers of tendon rotate 90 degrees distally
with medial fibers terminating posteriorly
Collagen comprises 70% of tendon
95% type I
Small amount of elastin
Collagen organized into fascicles
surrounded by epitenon
Ruptured tendon contains significant type
III collagen
Blood Supply
Musculotendinous junction
Surrounding connective tissue (paratenon)
Bone-tendon junction
Poor vascularization in midportion of

Ref: Schmidt-Rolfing, Int. Orthop., 1992

Peak force of 2233 newtons within achilles
in vivo- Fukashiro 1995
Force builds just before heel strike, then
Force builds again and peaks at the end of
push off
Injury can be produced by asynchronous
contraction of triceps surae
Incidence 18 per 100,000 - Finland
Most ruptures occur during sports
More common in males in third and fourth
decade of life
Blood type O?
Inflammatory and autoimmune conditions
Collagen disorders
Infectious disease
Neurologic conditions
Blood flow to tendon decreases with age
Area prone to rupture relatively
Etiology continued
Histologic evidence of collagen degeneration in all
studies of patients with rupture
Collagen degeneration occurs prior to rupture
Alternating exercise with inactivity
Accumulation of trauma leads to degeneration
Corticosteroids injection into rabbit tendons
showed necrosis and delayed healing. Several
studies showed collagen damage with injected
Oral steroids also implicated
Fluoroquinolones and Tendon
Direct deleterious effect on tenocytes
Decreased transcription of Decorin which
may modify architecture of tendon and alter
mechanical properties

Bernard-Beaubois 1998
Mechanism of Rupture
Pushing off foot while extending knee- 53%
Jumping in basketball
Sudden dorsiflexion of ankle- 17%
Fall down steps or into hole
Violent dorsiflexion of plantar flexed foot-
Fall from height
Clinical Presentation
Sudden pain in affected limb
Report being struck in back of leg
Edema and bruising
Palpable gap in tendon
+ Thompson test- 1962
Frequently missed!!
Radiographs- usually not helpful unless
avulsion of calcaneus
Ultrasound used to assess gap in tendon
and apposition of torn ends of tendon
Helpful with nonoperative tx
MRI useful in partial tears and tendinosis
Achilles Tendon Healing
Rabbit model Thermann et al Germany
Foot and Ankle July 2002
Nonoperative vs. operative
No difference within first week
Nonop tx showed aligned fibroblasts after 1 week
At 12 weeks, nonop=op tx
High levels of type III collagen in healing tissue of
ruptured tendons
Achilles Tendon Healing
Balb-C mice with ruptured achilles treated either
with mobilization or immobilization
More rapid restoration of load to failure in
mobilized group
112 days mobilized group regained original
tendon stiffness
Mobilization lead to increased inflammatory cells
at rupture site.
Palmes et al J of Orthopaedic Research 2002
Nonoperative Treatment
Cast immobilization 6-8 weeks
Functional brace
Use ultrasound to ensure tendon apposition
Higher rerupture rate vs. operative repair
Fewer overall complications
Surgical Treatment
First advocated by Pare 1575
1-2% deep infection rate
Rerupture rate 2-8%
Pajala et al JBJS 2002
409 patients, 5.6% rerupture rate
2.2% deep infection- Finlan
Surgical Repair vs. Casting
7.7% rerupture rate with cast vs. 3% with
AOFAS scores similar at 3.5 years post
Greater calf atrophy with cast
Fewer overall complications with
nonoperative tx
Beskin et al Foot/Ankle December 2001
Complications of Surgical
Wound necrosis
Wound infection
Sural nerve injury
DVT and PE
Rerupture 2-5%
Percutaneous Achilles Repair
Developed by Ma and Griffith 1977
6 small incisions to pass sutures
Faster return to normal strength than cast
Sural nerve entrapment
Higher rerupture rate vs. open repair
Percutaneous vs. Open
6.4% rerupture rate
Open repair
2.7% rerupture
Percutaneous does not reestablish length
Injury to sural nerve
Fewer wound complications with percutaneous tx

JBJS Br 1999
Chronic Ruptures
Use V-Y advancement if gap < 4cm
Central turn down for larger gaps > 4cm
Augmentation with FHL tendon
Achilles Tendonitis
Thickening and swelling of tendon
May occur at insertion or midsubstance
Often associated with tight gastroc
Insidious onset
Achilles Tendonitis -
Physical therapy
Heel lift
PRP injection
Operative vs. Nonoperative
Willits et al, JBJS Dec 2010
144 patients with achilles rupture
Randomized to operative and nonoperative
Fewer complications in nonoperative group
Functional outcome no statistical difference
Functional outcome better with surgery and early
Fewer complications with nonsurgical tx
Rerupture rate
Surgery 2%
Cast 8-10%
Functional bracing
Percutaneous repair
Postoperative Protocol
Non weight bearing x 4 weeks
Cam walker brace x 6 weeks
Active ROM exercises only
No passive stretching for 8 weeks