The Achilles tendon attaches your calf muscle to your heel bone. Rupturing (tearing) this tendon is a common injury that happens while playing sport or exercising. This causes difficulty walking, running, or climbing stairs. This injury often causes sharp pain that moves into a dull ache, this is a painful condition which can impede the daily lives of sufferers and so is wise to seek treatment early for. Commonly, this can be treated by the application of a cast or a brace but in some cases, surgery may be required.
What is an Achilles Tendon Injury?
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body. It stretches from the bones of your heel to your calf muscles. It is common for this tendon to get injured. It can be mild or moderate and feel like a burning pain or stiffness in that part of the leg. If the pain is severe, the Achilles tendon may be partly or completely torn. Sufferers may be offered surgery if young and active or if the patient is a competitive athlete. Surgery may also be an option if the rupture was not treated early enough and multiple ruptures do not heal quickly.
When Should I See a Doctor for an Achilles Tendon Injury?
You should always seek medical advice immediately if you hear a ‘pop’ sound in or around your heel, especially if you can’t walk properly afterwards, as this can prevent further pain and discomfort and potential medical conditions that could occur from neglect of the injury.
Symptoms of an Achilles Tendon Injury
Although it is possible to have no signs or symptoms with an Achilles tendon rupture, most people will present with:
- The feeling of being kicked in the calf
- Pain (possibly severe) and swelling near the heel
- An inability to bend the foot downward or “push off” the injured leg when walking
- An inability to stand on the toes on the injured leg
- A popping or snapping sound when the injury occurs
Achilles Tendon Surgery Explained
The surgeon will make an incision in the back of the leg just above the ankle. Each end of the damaged tendon is located and reattached using stiches. Depending on the extent of the rupture, a graft may be needed to reinforce the tendon. Then, the surgeon will close with stiches and apply a cast temporarily. The procedure commonly takes between 30-60 minutes. It is likely that the patient will go home the same day as the procedure and may need to take blood thinning medication to prevent clots.
Patients should be non-weight bearing for approximately 3 weeks and will need to use crutches. Follow up physiotherapy appointments will be offered.
Risks of Achilles Tendon Surgery
As with any other procedure, there are some (rare) risks. These include:
- Infection in a surgical wound
- Blood clots
- Tendon ruptures
- Ankle stiffness
How Much Does Achilles Tendon Surgery Cost?
Privately, surgery for an Achilles Tendon costs around £4,500. This treatment can be offered on the NHS for which the waiting time is approximately 18 weeks, but may be longer.