Declining incidence of surgery for Achilles tendon rupture follows publication of major RCTs: evidence-influenced change evident using the Finnish registry study

Br J Sports Med. 2015 Aug;49(16):1084-6. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092756. Epub 2013 Oct 15.


Objectives: Acute Achilles tendon ruptures are common among highly active people. Recently published studies have provided increasing evidence to support non-surgical treatment. This study aimed to assess the incidence trends of surgically treated, acute Achilles tendon ruptures. Our hypothesis, based on the recent literature showing no difference in functional results between surgical and non-surgical treatment, was that the incidence of surgery would be declining.

Methods: We conducted a nationwide hospital register-based study. All patients 18 years of age or older with a diagnosis of acute Achilles tendon injury, and treated with Achilles tendon repair from 1987 to 2011 in Finland were included in the study.

Results: During the 25-year study period in Finland, a total of 15,252 patients received surgical treatment for an acute Achilles tendon rupture. The incidence of surgical treatment of acute Achilles tendon rupture in men was 11.1/100,000 person-years in 1987 and 20.5/100,000 person-years in 2011. The corresponding figures in women were 2.5/100,000 person-years in 1987 and 4.2/100,000 person-years in 2011. The highest rates occurred in 2008 in men and 2007 in women, and since then the decrease has been 42% in men and 55% in women.

Conclusions: During the past few years, the rate of surgically treated acute Achilles tendon ruptures has declined remarkably. The findings of the present study indicate that orthopaedic surgeons have chosen more often non-surgical treatment option for acute Achilles ruptures. This can be considered as an example, how high-quality scientific evidence can lead to a rapid change in clinical practice.

Keywords: Achilles Tendon; Epidemiology; Evidence Based Reviews; Sporting Injuries.

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / injuries*
  • Achilles Tendon / surgery
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Registries
  • Rupture / surgery
  • Sex Distribution
  • Young Adult