The effect of achilles tendon lengthening on ankle dorsiflexion: a cadaver study.
Costa ML., Logan K., Heylings D., Donell ST., Tucker K.
BACKGROUND: Tendon lengthening is an important cause of morbidity after Achilles tendon rupture. However, direct measurement of the tendon length is difficult. Ankle dorsiflexion has, therefore, been used as a surrogate measure on the assumption that it is the Achilles tendon that limits this movement. The aim of this investigation was to assess the relationship between Achilles tendon length and ankle dorsiflexion. The primary question was whether or not the Achilles tendon is the structure that limits ankle dorsiflexion. The secondary purpose was to quantify the relationship between Achilles tendon lengthening and dorsiflexion at the ankle joint. METHODS: Five cadaver specimens were dissected to expose the tendons and capsular tissue of the leg and hindfoot. Fixed bony reference points were used as markers for the measurements. In the first specimen, the Achilles tendon was intact and the other structures that may limit ankle dorsiflexion were sequentially divided. In the other specimens the Achilles tendon was lengthened by 1 cm intervals and the effect upon ankle dorsiflexion movement was recorded. RESULTS: Division of the other tendons and the capsular tissue around the ankle joint did not affect the range of ankle dorsiflexion. When the Achilles was divided the foot could be dorsiflexed until the talar neck impinged upon the anterior aspect of the distal tibia. There was a mean increase of 12 degrees of dorsiflexion for each centimeter increase in tendon length. CONCLUSION: The Achilles tendon is the anatomical structure that limits ankle dorsiflexion, even when the tendon is lengthened. There was a linear relationship between the length of the Achilles tendon and the range of ankle dorsiflexion in this cadaver model. Ankle dorsiflexion would appear to be a clinically useful indicator of tendon length.