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Achilles Tendon Rupture

Your Achilles tendon is a large band of tissue in the back of your ankle. It connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. The tendon helps you point your foot downward, rise on your toes, and push off when you walk. You use it almost every time you move. But repeated stress can make the tendon more prone to injury. It may become inflamed and develop small tears (tendonitis). A complete tear through the tendon is known as an Achilles tendon rupture.

Side view of foot on tiptoe turned slightly to side showing plantar fascia on bottom of foot attached to heel bone. Achilles tendon is attached to heel bone and muscle in calf. Posterior tibial nerve is next to Achilles tendon in ankle.

When to Go to the Emergency Room (ER)

Seek medical care right away if you:

  • Hear a loud "pop" or snapping sound.

  • Have the sensation of being hit hard in the back of the leg.

  • Aren`t able to stand on your toes, bend your foot downward, or walk normally.

A ruptured Achilles tendon may NOT cause pain. If you hear a loud pop, even if you can walk and don`t have pain, get medical attention.

What to Expect in the ER

A doctor will examine your feet, ankles, and legs. He or she is also likely to ask about your physical activities. In most cases, this is all that's needed to diagnose a ruptured tendon. In some cases, you may have a magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI). This test uses magnets to create a clear picture of the tendons.

Your Treatment

If your tendon has ruptured, you will be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon. He or she will discuss your treatment options with you. These include surgery to repair the tendon or wearing a cast and using crutches until the tendon heals.

Online Medical Reviewer: Costello, Melissa W, MD, FACEP
Online Medical Reviewer: Williams, James M, MS, DO, FACEP
Date Last Reviewed: 12/29/2011
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