The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to compare re-rupture rates, complication rates, functional outcomes, as well as return to work (RTW)/sport (RTS) among different rehabilitation protocols following operative treatment of acute Achilles tendon ruptures.
Systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Five databases were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing at least two rehabilitation protocols following surgical repair of acute Achilles tendon ruptures. Rehabilitation protocols were classified as a variation of either non-weightbearing (NWB) or weightbearing (WB) and immobilization (IM) or mobilization (M). The data collection consisted of re-ruptures, complications, and RTW/RTS.
Out of 2760 studies screened, 20 RCTs with 1007 patients were eligible. Fourteen studies included a group consisting of WB + M (Group 1), 11 of WB + IM (Group 2), 3 of NWB + M (Group 3), and 13 of NWB + IM (Group 4). Outcome parameters available for a meta-analysis were re-ruptures, complications, RTW, and RTS. Re-ruptures overall occurred in 2.7%, with prevalences ranging between 0.04 and 0.08. Major complications occurred in 2.6%, with prevalences ranging between 0.02 and 0.03. Minor complications occurred in 11.8% with prevalances ranging between 0.04 to 0.17. Comparing the odds-ratios between the four different groups revealed no significant differences with overall favourable results for group 1 (WB+M).
Early functional rehabilitation protocols with early ankle M and WB following surgical repair of acute Achilles tendon ruptures are safe and they apparently allow for a quicker RTW and RTS and seem to lead to favourable results.