My husband is going in for surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon that just happened two days ago. The surgeon briefly mentioned I would have to help watch out for any post-operative complications. The nurse said she would go over all this with me before he is discharged. Now I'm wondering what sorts of problems can develop?
The Achilles tendon is a strong, fibrous band that connects the calf muscle to the heel. The calf is actually formed by two muscles, the underlying soleus and the thick outer gastrocnemius. Together, they form the gastroc-soleus muscle group. When they contract, they pull on the Achilles tendon, causing your foot to point down and helping you rise on your toes. This powerful muscle group helps when you sprint, jump, or climb. Several different problems can occur that affect the Achilles tendon, some rather minor and some quite severe.
These problems affect athletes most often, especially runners, basketball players, and anyone engaged in jumping sports. They are also common among both active and sedentary (inactive) middle-aged adults. And the number of Achilles injuries seems to be on the rise. These problems cause pain at the back of the calf. Severe cases may result in a rupture of the Achilles tendon.
The best way to manage acute Achilles tendon ruptures has not been discovered. One important outcome of successful treatment is to avoid the number one complication: rerupture. Other complications can include infection, bleeding into the muscle, adhesions, altered skin sensation (nerve injury), and blood clots.
Most of the complications involving infection occur as a result of surgery. Those patients who are treated with cast immobilization are more likely to develop problems from the cast (e.g., sores, swelling from a too-tight cast).
Since most surgical patients are put in a cast to immobilize the leg after surgery, you will be told how to monitor your husband for any problems. Sometimes it's as simple as just looking at and feeling the toes for warmth and color (indicators of circulation). Your husband will be able to report any other problems such as pain, numbness, throbbing sensations, and so on.
The nurses are very good about giving written information about what to watch for. You will be given a telephone number to call in case of any developing problems or emergencies. Don't hesitate to call if anything comes up you are unsure about. Early intervention taking care of problems can keep small problems from becoming big ones.
Matthew P. Jones, MBBS, BSc, et al. Surgical Interventions for Treating Acute Achilles Tendon Rupture: Key Findings from a Recent Cochrane Review. In The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. June 20, 2012. Vol. 94A. No. 12. Pp. e88(1)-e88(6).
*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.