The Achilles tendon is the most frequently ruptured tendon in the lower limb and accounts for almost 20% of all large tendon injuries. Despite numerous published studies describing its blood supply, there has been no uniformity in describing its topography. The current study comprises a detailed anatomical study of both the intrinsic and extrinsic arterial supply of the Achilles tendon, providing the detail sought from studies calling for improved planning of surgical procedures where damage to the vascularity of the Achilles tendon is likely. A dissection, microdissection, histological, and angiographic study was undertaken on 20 cadaveric lower limbs from 16 fresh and four embalmed cadavers. The Achilles tendon is supplied by two arteries, the posterior tibial and peroneal arteries. Three vascular territories were identified, with the midsection supplied by the peroneal artery, and the proximal and distal sections supplied by the posterior tibial artery. The midsection of the Achilles tendon was markedly more hypovascular that the rest of the tendon. The Achilles tendon is at highest risk of rupture and surgical complications at its midsection. Individuals with particularly poor supply of the midsection may be at increased risk of tendon rupture, and approaches to the tendon operatively should consider the route of supply by the peroneal artery to this susceptible part of the tendon.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.