The study followed the three year outcome of patients with complete ruptures of the Achilles tendon that were treated with non-surgical methods. Eighty-six percent of them reported "excellent" or "good" results. These results were better than a similar group who had surgical repair.
The non-surgical treatment had patients wear a hard cast for a short time, and then switch to a lighter cast and finally to a functional, removable brace that was worn for one month. Traditional treatment for a complete Achilles tear has always been surgery immobilizing the ankle with a cast during healing. In the study, patients were immobilized for a shorter period of time and then were able to take off the brace and do rehab exercises.
Researchers found that nearly all (91 percent) of those patients who participated in sports before their injury were able to return to sports. They also reported a lower rate of complications than with surgical repair.
Their conclusion is that this new nonoperative treatment should be the treatment of choice when physicians and therapists are trained and experienced in this protocol.
Source: Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, June 2004