The Achilles tendon is one of the strongest tendons in the body but also one of the most commonly injured tendons.
Ultrasound is one of the best ways to diagnose rupture/tear of the Achilles tendon. Ultrasound gives excellent definition of the tear but also the background state of the tendon. The ultrasound can also measure the distance between the gap of the torn ends of the tendon and any surrounding damage. Because ultrasound is a dynamic examination, the operator can move the ankle and perform various functional tests of the Achilles tendon during the examination.
MRI can also be used to diagnose Achilles rupture however this is not commonly used in the acute setting due to the lack of the dynamic testing that is performed during the ultrasound scan.
The Achilles tendon can tear or rupture as a result of sudden activity or from minimal trauma. Quite often the Achilles tendon ruptures in a tendon which is already inflammed, also known as tendinopathy or tendonitis.
Patients who suffer from Achilles tendonitis are at a greater risk of rupturing their Achilles tendon from little force and therefore should be careful in certain activities.
The tendon can rupture completely or partially. The rupture can also happen either where the tendon inserts into the calcaneus bone, in the mid-substance of the tendon or near the musculotendinous junction.
Ruptures can also happen of the muscle fibres which may be the gastrocnemius muscle or the soleus muscle. There is also a small muscle which contributes to the Achilles called the plantaris which can also rupture and be very painful however this does not have significant impact in later function.
Management of Achilles rupture depends on the type of tear, whether it is complete or partial, the location of the tear and the distance between the torn ends. Broadly speaking, management can involve either surgical repair of the tendon or conservative healing to allow the tone ends to bind together while providing support to the ankle.
At Acorn Ultrasound, we are highly specialised in being able to diagnose Achilles tendon rupture or tendonitis thanks to our experienced consultants who specialise in musculoskeletal and sports injuries.