This study reports on the demographics of acute Achilles tendon rupture in our region and compares the results of a selective approach to operative and nonoperative treatment using an identical rehabilitation program with functional bracing.

A consecutive series of 363 patients, aged 15 to 60 years, treated over 8.5 years by either open operative repair (143) or nonoperatively (220) were compared with respect to demographics, re-rupture rate, and major wound complication.

There was an almost equal number of males (159) and females (152) up to age 50 years but males comprised 73% of patients aged 51 to 60 years. Netball was the most common cause of injury and explains the relatively high incidence in females. In the 143 patients treated surgically there were two re-ruptures (1.4%) and two reoperations for wound complications (1.4%). In the 220 patients treated nonoperatively there were 19 re-ruptures (8.6%), 13 of 113 males (11.5%) and six of 107 females (5.6%). There was a significantly lower re-rupture rate, and reoperation rate in the surgical group (p < 0.05). In the nonoperative group there was a significantly lower rate of re-rupture in patients over 40 (six of 119) (4.1%) compared with those 40 years and under (13 of 99, 13.1%) and between females over 40 when compared with males 40 years and under.

In our region there is a high incidence of Achilles tendon rupture among women due to netball and results in a younger age of injury than previously reported. Our results support surgery in patients less than 40 years, particularly males, if there are no contraindications. Functional bracing as part of nonoperative treatment can result in low re-rupture rates in patients over 40, especially in females.

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