You have one of the most painful injuries possible: an achilles tendon rupture. Frequently, it happens to middle-aged men who engage in inconsistent rigorous exercise. They often describe the pain as someone “kicking them.”
Regardless of how it happens, an achilles tendon rupture causes intense pain and has a months-long recovery.
But what’s the best way to get better from it? Should you have surgery done? What does the research suggest?
One study examined a total of 144 patients. 72 were treated operatively, and 72 non-operatively. 118 were male and 26 were female, with the average age being about 40.
2 patients in the operative group reruptured their achilles. 3 patients did so in the non-operative group. 13 patients had complications in the operative group. Just six had complications in the non-operative group. The groups did not have any significant difference in their strength or range of motion.
So in simple language, there was no huge difference in surgical versus non-surgical treatment in this study.
The study was published in 2010 by Kevin Willis and others in The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. You can read a brief synopsis of the study here
This study was also published in The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, and is accurate as of 2008.
It analyzed 800 patients from 12 other studies. It found open operative treatment had a lower risk of rerupture versus nonoperative treatment. However, it did have some risks of additional complications not found with nonoperative treatment. Those risks included infection, adhesions, and disturbed skin sensibility. Various nonoperative treatments were studied, but the sample studied was so small that no definitive conclusions could be made.
The bottom line that the study found was that operative treatment done percutaneously (where the inner tissue is not exposed) greatly reduces the possibility of rerupture. However, the tradeoff is that you have a much higher risk of other complications.
You Have a Decision to Make
For now, you have a decision you have to make together with your doctor. Would you rather risk rerupture or more minor complications?
This is the best medical technology allows at this point, so every answer is up to you the individual.