The aim of our prospective, randomized, clinical study was to compare two postoperative regimens after Achilles rupture repair and determine whether early functional treatment will give a better result than early immobilization in tension of the musculotendinous unit.
Fifty patients with acute Achilles tendon rupture were randomized postoperatively to receive either early movement of the ankle between neutral and plantar flexion in a brace for 6 weeks or Achilles tendon immobilization in tension using a below-knee cast with the ankle in a neutral position for 6 weeks. Full weight bearing was allowed after 3 weeks in both groups. The patients were assessed clinically at 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24 weeks, and the last control visit took place at a mean of 60 (SD 6.4) weeks postoperatively.
The isokinetic calf muscle strength scores were excellent in 56%, good in 32%, fair in 8%, and poor in 4% of the patients in the early motion group at the last control checkup; whereas the scores in the cast group were excellent in 29%, good in 50%, and fair in 21% of the patients. The ankle performance scores were excellent or good in 88%, fair in 4%, and poor in 8% of the patients in the early motion group, whereas the scores in the cast group were excellent or good in 92% and fair in 8% of the patients. At 3 months and at the last control checkup, no significant differences were seen between the two groups with regard to pain, stiffness, subjective calf muscle weakness, footwear restrictions, range of ankle motion, isokinetic calf muscle strength, or overall outcome. The complications included one rerupture in the early motion group and one deep infection and two reruptures in the cast group. Deep infection and the rerupture in the cast group occurred in the same patient. The outcome of the complications was good in two cases and poor in one.
The isokinetic calf muscle strength results were somewhat better in the early motion group, whereas the other outcome results obtained in the two groups of patients were very similar. We recommend early functional postoperative treatment after Achilles rupture repair for athletes and well-motivated patients and for less-motivated patients and nonathletes.