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The Ruptured Achilles Tendon Elongates for 6 Months After Surgical Repair Regardless of Early or Late Weightbearing in Combination With Ankle Mobilization: A Randomized Clinical Trial

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BACKGROUND: Treatment strategies for Achilles tendon rupture vary considerably, and clinical outcome may depend on the magnitude of tendon elongation after surgical repair. The aim of this project was to examine whether tendon elongation, mechanical properties, and functional outcomes during rehabilitation of surgically repaired acute Achilles tendon ruptures were influenced by different rehabilitation regimens during the early postsurgical period.

HYPOTHESIS: Restricted early weightbearing that permits only limited motion about the ankle in the early phase of tendon healing limits tendon elongation and improves functional outcome.

STUDY DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 1.

METHODS: 75 consecutive patients with an acute Achilles tendon rupture were included. They underwent surgical repair, and tantalum beads were placed in the distal and proximal parts of the tendon; thereafter, the patients were randomized into 3 groups. The first group was completely restricted from weightbearing until week 7. The second group was completely restricted from weightbearing until week 7 but performed ankle joint mobilization exercises. The first and second groups were allowed full weightbearing after week 8. The third group was allowed partial weightbearing from day 1 and full weightbearing from week 5. All patients received the same instructions in home exercise guidelines starting from week 9.

RESULTS: The rehabilitation regimen in the initial 8 weeks did not significantly influence any of the measured outcomes including tendon elongation. Achilles tendon elongation and tendon compliance continued for up to 6 months after surgery, and muscle strength, muscle endurance, and patient-reported functional scores did not reach normal values at 12 months.

CONCLUSION: Differences in rehabilitation loading pattern in the initial 8 weeks after the repair of an Achilles tendon rupture did not measurably alter the outcome. The time to recover full function after an Achilles tendon rupture is at least 12 months. Registration: NCT02422004 ( identifier).

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe American journal of sports medicine
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)2492-2502
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018

ID: 56199085