If you have a damaged Achilles tendon due to a sports injury, accident, or repetitive strain, your podiatrist might recommend surgery to help you recover. Achilles tendon repair surgery helps the tendon heal so you can resume jumping, running, and playing sports with a reduced risk of another tendon injury. Here's a look at when this surgery might be recommended, how it's performed, and what to expect with recovery.
When Your Podiatrist Might Recommend Surgery
An injured Achilles tendon can often heal by itself given enough time and rest. Your podiatrist might try medication, physical therapy, and a brace to see if your tendon will heal on its own. If these treatments aren't suitable, or if they don't work, your podiatrist might recommend surgery depending on the other health conditions you have.
If you play sports, the podiatrist might recommend surgery as a way to make the tendon stronger so it isn't at a high risk of further injury when you jump or pivot as might happen when playing football or basketball.
How Achilles Tendon Repair Surgery Is Done
The type of surgery you have depends on how badly the tendon is injured. Your tendon may just need stitches, or it might need to be replaced with a donor tendon. This tendon repair surgery might be an open procedure with a long incision, or it could be minimally invasive where the foot surgeon uses tiny incisions and a camera to visualize the tendon to stitch it closed.
The surgery might be done as an outpatient, and if so, you'll be allowed to go home as soon as you're awake, alert, and medically stable. You won't be able to bear weight or walk on your foot, so you'll need crutches or other mobility aid.
What To Expect As You Recover
Your recovery path depends on whether you have open or minimally invasive surgery. You should heal much quicker with the minimally invasive procedure. In either case, you'll need to use crutches for a period of weeks, have physical therapy treatments, and avoid things like showering and driving until your podiatrist clears you.
You'll have some pain after the procedure, but the doctor will probably provide pain medications to help. You'll wear a boot, splint, or cast on your foot to hold it in place while the tendon heals. Your podiatrist will let you know in advance how long you need to be off work because it depends on the type of work you do. You may need to take off several weeks if you work on your feet all day.