Repairing shortened Achilles tendons

April 17, 2009 11:13:01 AM PDT
Doctors are making advancements in surgeries to correct some foot problems that have affected people for years. An example is a shortened Achilles tendon that causes you to walk on your toes. "Healthcheck Answers" report, it's not something you have to live with anymore says Dr. Gary Lepow.

What techniques are used to lengthen or repair a shortened Achilles tendon?

ANSWER:
"What we're doing now which is very exciting is when we need a significant movement of a tendon, length of a tendon, or a repair of a tendon, not only are we lengthening, but we're wrapping the tendon with a human graft material," said Dr. Gary Lepow.

QUESTION:
What is the graft material made of?

ANSWER:
"It is human tissue that has been engineered. It has been sterilized, any type of transmittable or infectious material has been completely sterilized, either through radiation or other techniques and it goes through a very rigorous examination prior to implanting it into a human."

QUESTION:
Is the graft material a replacement for bone?

ANSWER:
"This graft tissue is more like tendon and it is not bone or bone-like. So it's not really being used to replace bone. Now we're using it to cover bone where there are defects, or for cushioning and padding of arthritic areas of bone. But this material is not used or suggested to be used as a replacement for bone."

QUESTION:
How long does it take to recover following surgery?

ANSWER:
"The tendon heals in 3 to 6 weeks. So after 6 to 8 weeks we're pretty comfortable and we start him on mild stretching and exercise and then within that 8 week period we should have him back to a shoe with a little bit of a lift for a couple more weeks and then back to normal shoes."

QUESTION:
What the end result look like?

ANSWER:
"You will be able to see the difference between the foot that we've already done and the foot that we're getting ready to do and he will be back to a normal gait with his heels on the ground and being able to get into shoes and be able to participate in all activities."

"Toe walking" may also be a sign of a serious condition, such as profound neuromuscular disease. So consult with your doctor for a diagnosis.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter


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