Whether Achilles tendon rupture benefits from surgery or conservative treatment remains controversial. Moreover, the outcome can be influenced by the rehabilitation protocol. The goal of the present meta-analysis was to compare the rerupture rate after surgical repair of the Achilles tendon followed by weightbearing within 4 weeks versus conservative treatment with weightbearing within 4 weeks. In addition, a secondary analysis was performed to compare the rerupture rates in patients who started weightbearing after 4 weeks. Seven randomized controlled trials published from 2001 to 2012, with 576 adult patients, were included. The primary outcome measure was the rerupture rate. The secondary outcomes were minor and major complications other than rerupture. In the early weightbearing group, 7 of 182 operatively treated patients (4%) experienced rerupture versus 21 of 176 of the conservatively treated patients (12%). A secondary analysis of the patients treated with late weightbearing showed a rerupture rate of 6% (7 of 108) for operatively treated patients versus 10% (11 of 110) for conservatively treated patients. The differences concerning the rerupture rate in both groups were not statistically significant. No differences were found in the occurrence of minor or major complications after early weightbearing in both patient groups. In conclusion, we found no difference in the rerupture rate between the surgically and nonsurgically treated patients followed by early weightbearing. Weightbearing after 4 weeks also resulted in no differences in the rupture rate in the surgical versus conservatively treated patients. However, surgical treatment was associated with a twofold greater complication rate than conservative treatment.
Level of Clinical Evidence: 1