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Is there still a place for Achilles tendon lengthening?

Tagoe, MT, Reeves, ND and Bowling, FL (2016) Is there still a place for Achilles tendon lengthening? Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, 32. ISSN 1520-7552


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Patients with diabetes and ankle equinus are at particularly high risk for forefoot ulceration because of the development of high forefoot pressures. Stiffness in the triceps surae muscles and tendons are thought to be largely responsible for equinus in patients with diabetes and underpins the surgical rationale for Achilles tendon lengthening (ATL) procedures to alleviate this deformity and reduce ulcer risk. The established/traditional surgical approach is the triple hemisection along the length of the Achilles tendon. Although the percutaneous approach has been successful in achieving increases in ankle dorsiflexion >30°, the tendon rupture risk has led to some surgeons looking at alternative approaches. The gastrocnemius aponeurosis may be considered as an alternative because of the Achilles tendon’s poor blood supply. ATL procedures are a balance between achieving adequate tendon lengthening and minimizing tendon rupture risk during or after surgery. After ATL surgery, the first 7 days should involve reduced loading and protected range of motion to avoid rupture, after which gradual reintroduction to loading should be encouraged to increase tendon strength. In summary, there is a moderate level of evidence to support surgical intervention for ankle joint equinus in patients with diabetes and forefoot ulceration that is non-responsive to other conservative treatments. Areas of caution for ATL procedures include the risk for overcorrection, tendon rupture and the tendon’s poor blood supply. Further prospective randomized control trials are required to confirm the benefits of ATL procedures over conservative care and the most optimal anatomical sites for surgical intervention. .

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