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Am J Sports Med. 2012 Sep;40(9):2154-60. doi: 10.1177/0363546512453293. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

Operative versus nonoperative management of acute Achilles tendon ruptures: a quantitative systematic review of randomized controlled trials.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, The State University of New York at Buffalo, 33 Linden Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA.



Despite several randomized controlled trials comparing operative to nonoperative management of Achilles tendon ruptures, the optimal management of this condition remains the subject of significant debate. Rerupture is a known complication, but most level I studies have not shown a significant difference in the incidence of reruptures when comparing operative to nonoperative management.


The goal of this systematic review was to identify all randomized controlled trials comparing operative and nonoperative management of Achilles tendon ruptures and to meta-analyze the data with reruptures being the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes including strength, time to return to work, and other complications were analyzed as well.




We searched multiple online databases to identify English-language, prospective randomized controlled trials comparing open surgical repair of acute Achilles tendon ruptures to nonoperative management. Rerupture was our primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included strength, time to return to work, deep infections, sural nerve sensory disturbances, noncosmetic scar complaints, and deep venous thrombosis. Coleman methodology scores were calculated for each included study. Data were extracted from all qualifying articles and, when appropriate, pooled and meta-analyzed.


Seven level I trials involving 677 patients met inclusion criteria. Coleman scores were 95, 95, 95, 89, 78, 97, and 92. Open repair was associated with a significantly lower rerupture rate compared with nonoperative treatment (3.6% vs 8.8%; odds ratio, 0.425; 95% confidence interval, 0.222-0.815). The incidence of deep infections was significantly higher for patients treated with surgery (P = .0113). The incidences of noncosmetic scar complaints and sural nerve sensory disturbances were also significantly higher in patients treated with surgery (P < .001 for each). Strength measurements were not standardized and therefore could not be meta-analyzed.


Open surgical repair of acute Achilles tendon ruptures significantly reduces the risk of reruptures when compared with nonoperative management. Several other complications, which are clearly avoided with nonoperative treatment, occur with a significantly higher incidence when surgical repair is performed. The available literature makes it difficult to compare the return of strength in the involved lower extremity after operative or nonoperative management. Future studies may focus on testing strength in a more functional and reproducible manner than isokinetic testing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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