Lengthening the Achilles tendon for the treatment of diabetic plantar forefoot ulceration

Surg Clin North Am. 2003 Jun;83(3):707-26. doi: 10.1016/S0039-6109(02)00191-3.


The accepted hallmarks of care for plantar forefoot ulceration are meticulous wound care, nutrition, management of infection, and non-weight bearing of the ulcerative area. Tendo-Achilles lengthening is crucial in healing these ulcerations when it is determined that the Achilles tendon is one of the main biomechanical stresses that led to the ulceration. The Silfverskiold test helps determine whether a percutaneous lengthening or gastrocnemius recession is called for. A gastrocnemius recession is the safer operation because it does not carry the postoperative risk of overlengthening or rupture, calcaneal gait, and subsequent plantar heel ulceration, but gastrocnemius recession carries a higher late recurrence rate of late plantar forefoot reulceration (16%). A more permanent result can be achieved with percutaneous tendo-Achilles lengthening, although one assumes the associated risk of overlengthening the tendo-Achilles, calcaneal gait, and the difficult-to-treat plantar calcaneal ulceration. It is crucial to address other biomechanical abnormalities that may have contributed to the specific plantar ulceration, such as hammer toe, prominent plantar metatarsal head, prominent sesamoids, and long metatarsal. In addition, the patient should be placed in proper footwear, which at the minimum includes orthoses but may include specialized accommodative shoe wear. Failure to include these adjunctive procedures to Achilles tendon lengthening may prevent healing or hasten ulcer recurrence. Future studies will be directed toward determining the roles of prophylactic Achilles tendon lengthening preventing equinovarus deformities, possible plantar foot ulceration, and Charcot collapse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / physiopathology*
  • Achilles Tendon / surgery*
  • Diabetic Foot / physiopathology*
  • Diabetic Foot / surgery*
  • Forefoot, Human / physiopathology*
  • Forefoot, Human / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Wound Healing / physiology*