Early functional treatment versus cast immobilization in tension after achilles rupture repair: results of a prospective randomized trial with 10 or more years of follow-up

Am J Sports Med. 2015 Sep;43(9):2302-9. doi: 10.1177/0363546515591267. Epub 2015 Jul 30.


Background: There are no long-term prospective controlled trials comparing postoperative regimens after Achilles tendon rupture repair.

Purpose: To compare ≥10-year outcomes of 2 postoperative regimens after Achilles tendon rupture repair: early weightbearing with early mobilization versus early weightbearing with early immobilization in tension.

Study design: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 1.

Methods: A total of 50 patients with acute Achilles tendon ruptures were randomized postoperatively to receive either early movement of the ankle between neutral and plantar flexion in a brace for 6 weeks (group 1) or Achilles tendon immobilization in tension using a below-knee cast with the ankle in a neutral position for 6 weeks (group 2). Patients were assessed at 3, 6, and 14 months and 11 years postoperatively.

Results: There were 37 patients (74%) evaluated at a mean (±SD) of 11.0 ± 0.9 years. The mean Leppilahti score was 92.9 ± 5.6 in group 1 and 93.6 ± 7.2 in group 2 (P = .68). The mean isokinetic plantar flexion peak torque deficits or average work deficits in plantar flexion showed no differences between the groups with any angular velocity. Isokinetic strength changed minimally between 1 and 11 years compared with the unaffected ankle, but a mean deficit of 5% in peak torque and mean deficit of 8% in average work were still present after 11 years. On the contrary, isometric plantar flexion strength recovered significantly, with only a 2.4% difference at 11-year follow-up.

Conclusion: After the 11-year follow-up, early mobilization and immobilization in tension after Achilles rupture repair resulted in similar clinical outcomes and isokinetic strengths. Regardless of patient satisfaction with the operative treatment, calf muscle strength did not recover normally even at 11-year follow-up.

Keywords: Achilles tendon rupture; functional postoperative treatment; long-term results.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / injuries*
  • Achilles Tendon / surgery
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ankle / physiopathology
  • Ankle Joint / physiology
  • Braces
  • Casts, Surgical*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immobilization*
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Orthopedic / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Orthopedic Procedures / methods
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Prospective Studies
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures
  • Rupture / physiopathology
  • Rupture / surgery
  • Splints
  • Torque
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology
  • Wound Healing / physiology
  • Young Adult