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Early Tendon Morphology as a Biomarker of Long-term Patient Outcomes After Surgical Repair of Achilles Tendon Rupture: A Prospective Cohort Study.

BACKGROUND: Patient outcome after acute Achilles tendon rupture (ATR) varies and is difficult to predict. Whether early variations in healing, visualized with ultrasonography, can predict long-term patient outcome is unclear.

PURPOSE: To (1) examine the associations of Achilles tendon cross-sectional area (CSA) and elongation (TE) during healing of ATR repair with patient outcomes at 12 months postoperatively and (2) investigate the predictive or diagnostic capacity of the morphological biomarkers.

STUDY DESIGN: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.

METHODS: This study was based on previously collected data from 86 patients who underwent acute standardized ATR repair between 2013 and 2018 and who were included in a prior randomized trial investigating early functional mobilization (EFM). In the EFM group, loading was allowed immediately after surgery, while in the comparison group, loading was allowed first at 2 weeks postoperatively. Achilles tendon CSA and length were measured with ultrasound at 6 weeks, 6 months, and 12 months postoperatively. CSA ratio and absolute difference in the length of the healthy and injured tendons were calculated. Patient-reported outcome was registered with the validated Achilles tendon Total Rupture Score and functional outcome with the heel-rise endurance test at 12 months postoperatively. The limb symmetry index (LSI) was calculated for maximum heel-rise height (HRHmax ) and total concentric work. Multiple linear regression adjusted for age was used, and the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) was calculated to evaluate predictive capacity.

RESULTS: A larger CSA ratio at 6 weeks was associated with higher LSI HRHmax at 12 months ( R 2 , 0.35; P < .001) and exhibited good predictive capacity (AUC, 0.82). More TE at 12 months was associated with lower LSI total concentric work at 12 months ( R 2 , 0.21; P = .001) and exhibited acceptable predictive capacity (AUC, 0.71).

CONCLUSION: Greater Achilles tendon CSA seen on ultrasound 6 weeks after surgical repair had good clinical prediction for long-term functional outcome. TE at 12 months was predictive of inferior functional outcome.

REGISTRATION: NCT02318472 (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier).

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