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Arthroscopic Debridement of Achilles Tendon Wounds

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/16/2010

What should a patient know about arthroscopic debridement of Achilles tendon surgery procedures? Learn all about the procedures, complications, and recovery process.

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    Arthroscopic Debridement

    The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the human body and is a connector between the heel bone and calf muscles. An arthroscopic debridement of Achilles tendon wounds involves surgically cleaning and oftentimes also making repairs to wounds or injuries involving the Achilles tendon.

    According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), if there is less than 50 percent damage to the Achilles tendon, arthroscopic debridement and repair may be a good option. In this procedure, the part of the tendon that is damaged is removed and the rest of the tendon is sutured (repaired with stitches).

    If the problem is insertional tendinitis, along with the portion of damaged tendon, the bone spur that is present will also be removed. This procedure may also utilize anchors made or plastic or metal to secure the tendon to the heel bone.

    If more than 50 percent of the tendon is damaged, the patient may need to undergo arthroscopic debridement and tendon transfer. In this procedure, the tendon that controls the ability of the big toe to point in a downward direction is moved in order to strengthen the Achilles tendon. The big toe will still be functioning, with little or no noticeable difference in the patient’s walking or running capabilities.

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    Complications and Risks

    Possible complications and risks include deep vein thrombosis, wound infection and a delayed return to normal functioning and activities.

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    Post Operative Care

    Patients who have undergone arthroscopic debridement of Achilles tendon surgery can expect to be given pain killers and to have the affected area in a cast. The cast and wounds will need to be kept dry. To shower with the cast, simply place it in a large plastic bag and secure the top with tape.

    The hospital stay following surgery will be approximately one day, though other factors involved in the surgery can alter that. At home, patients will need to elevate the affected area for several days at night when they sleep. This can be accomplished by placing a pillow under the cast.

    Follow-up visits with the doctor will be ordered, with the first usually occurring at the two week mark. The next may be at the six week mark.

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    A patient who undergoes arthroscopic debridement can expect to be mobile and in a cast or removable boot in about two weeks, though the time will vary depending upon the amount of damage present in the Achilles tendon.

    The recovery period varies depending upon how damaged the Achilles tendon was, but with physical therapy, within 12 months (of physical therapy) a large percentage of patients become pain-free.

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    Achilles Tendinitis. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Last reviewed and updated in June 2010.

    Achilles Tendonitis – post operative course. The Foot & Ankle Clinic.