Objective: To report the outcome of surgery for chronic recalcitrant Achilles tendinopathy in nonathletic and athletic subjects.
Design: Case-control study.
Setting: University teaching hospitals.
Patients: We matched each of the 61 nonathletic patients with a diagnosis of tendinopathy of the Achilles tendon with an athletic patient with tendinopathy of the main body of the Achilles tendon of the same sex and age (+/-2 years). A match was possible for 56 patients (23 males and 33 females). Forty-eight nonathletic subjects and 45 athletic subjects agreed to participate.
Interventions: Open surgery for Achilles tendinopathy.
Main outcome measure: Outcome of surgery, return to sport, complication rate.
Results: Nonathletic patients were shorter and heavier than athletic patients. They had greater body mass index, calf circumference, side-to-side calf circumference differences, and subcutaneous body fat than athletic patients. Of the 48 nonathletic patients, 9 underwent further surgery during the study period, and only 25 reported an excellent or good result. Of the 45 athletic subjects, 4 underwent further surgery during the study period, and 36 reported an excellent or good result. The remaining patients could not return to their normal levels of activity. In all of them, pain significantly interfered with daily activities.
Conclusions: Nonathletic subjects experience more prolonged recovery, more complications, and a greater risk of further surgery than athletic subjects with recalcitrant Achilles tendinopathy.