Tearing your Achilles tendon can be incredibly painful and also really inconvenient. Tears in this large tendon rarely heal on their own, and your mobility will be severely compromised from the injury. Luckily, podiatric surgeons can surgically repair torn Achilles tendons. If you're going to need this surgery, then take a look at what you can expect.
Anesthesia and Prep
You don't typically need to do much to prepare for Achilles tendon surgery. Make plans for someone to drive you to and from the procedure, and make sure your home is stocked with snacks and drinks so you can relax and recover in comfort. Generally, Achilles tendon repair surgery is done with spinal anesthesia, so you'll stay awake, but you'll be numb from the waist down. You don't need to fast before this type of anesthesia.
If there is a medical reason why you cannot safely undergo spinal anesthesia, then your surgeon may put you under general anesthesia for the procedure. This means you'll be fully unconscious. You do need to fast before this type of anesthesia. Your doctor will tell you how long to fast for — it's typically 12 hours.
The Surgical Process
Once you are anesthetized, your surgeon will make an incision down the back of your calf, exposing the Achilles tendon. Sometimes, minor tears may be able to be repaired through multiple small incisions instead. Next, your surgeon will have to make an incision through the tendon sheath, which is the connective tissue that covers the tendon. Then, the tendon itself should be exposed. Your surgeon can suture it back together. Sometimes, they may need to remove a small portion of another tendon in your foot and use that tissue to repair your torn Achilles.
Once the tendon is repaired, your surgeon will suture the tendon sheath closed and then suture your skin closed. The anesthesia will be discontinued, and you will either wake up, or the numbness will gradually wear off.
The Recovery Period
Unless you had general anesthesia, you can typically return home the same day as your Achilles tendon repair surgery. Doctors usually keep patients in the hospital overnight after general anesthesia, just in case there are any side effects that develop.
You'll need to stay off your foot for a few days, and then you'll be able to slowly start walking, albeit while wearing a splint. After two or three weeks, you'll start attending physical therapy sessions to help heal your Achilles tendon and strengthen the structures around it. Most people are back to general activities and walking within three months. If you're an athlete, you can expect to start training again after about 6 months.
If you have any other concerns about your Achilles tendon repair surgery, don't be afraid to ask your surgeon.