Tendo Achilles lengthening (TAL) for the management of equinus contractures in ambulatory children with cerebral palsy (CP) is generally not recommended due to concerns of over-lengthening, resulting in weakness and plantar flexor insufficiency. However, in some cases, surgical correction of severe equinus deformities can only be achieved by TAL. The goal of this study is to assess the outcomes following TAL in these cases.
A retrospective cohort study of children with CP with severe equinus contractures (ankle dorsiflexion with the knee extended of -20 degrees or worse) who underwent TAL as part of a single event multilevel surgery, with preoperative and postoperative gait analysis studies. Continuous data were analyzed by paired t test, and categorical data by McNemar Test.
There were 60 subjects: 42 unilateral, 18 bilateral CP; 41 GMFCS II, 17 GMFCS I; mean age at surgery was 10.6 years, mean follow-up was 1.3 years. Ankle dorsiflexion with the knee extended improved from −28 to 5 degrees (P<0.001). The ankle Gait Variable Score improved from 34.4 to 8.6 (P<0.001). The ankle moment in terminal stance improved from 0.43 to 0.97 Nm/kg (P<0.001). Significant improvements (P<0.001) were seen in radiographic measures of foot alignment following surgery. There were few significant differences in the outcome parameters between subjects with unilateral versus bilateral CP (eg, only the bilateral group showed improved but persistent increased knee flexion in mid-stance).
The outcomes following TAL for the management of severe equinus deformity in ambulatory children with CP were favorable 1 year after surgery, with significant improvements in all domains measured.
This study does not advocate for the widespread use of TAL to correct equinus deformity in children with CP. However, it does show that good short-term outcomes following TAL are possible in properly selected subjects with severe contractures when the dosing of the surgery is optimal (correction of contracture to between 0 and 5 degrees of dorsiflexion with the knee extended) and the procedure is performed in the setting of single event multilevel surgery with subsequent proper orthotic management and rehabilitation.