Achilles heel? Try ultrasound not surgery

May 3, 2009


Damage to the Achilles Tendon (tendonitis) is no joke, and it doesn’t just happen to athletes as it is quite common in the general population and strikes men and women equally – though not everyone has the same susceptibility. Your tendon is subject to daily impact as you stride (or run) your way through life, and they are definitely designed very much for strength. Unfortunately, they have relatively little in the way of blood vessels associated with them which means they are slow to repair themselves. The usual treatment suggested is plenty of rest and ice packs, heel lifts, orthotic insoles for the shoes, and NSAID’s like ibuprofen and physical therapy. If these are not effective then surgery is the next option.

Now, however, a new study at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University in Chicago, USA, has come up with an alternative solution. The patients involved underwent ultrasound-guided debridement, of the tendon. This is a procedure that helps to break up any scar tissue within the tendon that might cause it to become stiffer than normal. The debridement stimulates an in-growth of blood vessels and results in a healing response which encourages the body’s own repair process to heal the tendon damage.

The procedure had a 60% success rate in the study with patients reporting either marked improvement in their symptoms, or that they had stopped entirely. For the patients in the trial it meant they could avoid surgery, and it looks promising to help others who have reached the end of the treatment road but don’t want to go under the knife.


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