Frank Flynn was taking a walk when he stumbled into trouble.
“Yeah, I walked into a hole that was two feet deep and I could feel my Achilles snap, just like that,” says Flynn.
The damage was apparent. When torn in two, the body’s largest tendon can roll up like a window shade.
“There can be a retraction of the tendon. And you can see when you look at a back of the leg, there’s a defect there. You can actually feel it. Sometimes we’ll ultrasound the area to verify the tendon has been ruptured,” says Dr. Andrew Belis, foot & ankle surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Doctors can treat a torn Achilles by using a cast, splint or boot to immobilize the lower leg. Younger or active patients, especially athletes, are more likely to undergo surgery. They’re back on their feet quicker, with less chance of re-rupturing.
“When we repair it there are a couple of options. One option is an open approach where we make a very large incision to get to those ends. There’s a newer approach I like to use, that’s called percutaneous, where we make a small incision and suture through the skin in and out,” says Dr. Belis.
Either way, the torn tendon is pulled together and sewn. Flynn opted for the less invasive, percutaneous approach. Going the through the skin, he has little to show for his misstep.
“I think if it was done the other way I’d have a longer incision, I think I’d have a longer down time where it would take longer to get back on my feet,” says Flynn.
“Studies show that’s just as effective as the major, open approach. People get back to their activities a little bit quicker; we see that a lot,” says Belis.
More than 80% of surgical patients return to normal activity-including sports.