My FHL Operation Story

I’m after advice from anyone who has been through an FHL transfer and the expected recovery.

Back in Nov 2012 I had a Coblation operation on my left Achilles tendon to rectify acute tendonitis after about 40 years of playing tennis and badminton, at club level standard. This operation was so successful I opted to have the right Achilles done in Nov 2014. However, this wasn’t as successful.

I had 4 weeks in an Aircast boot post op and it was when this came off that the problems started. It was a few days before Xmas 2014 and I turned in the bathroom and felt a slight tap in my calf area which resulted in my foot going all limp. I rang my regular physio who asked me to do several things to test my ankle. The result was that as I was able to walk within about 30mins of the incident it didn’t look like a rupture of the Achilles.

Christmas continued and I saw my physio a couple of days after Xmas, by which time I was walking without any issues. I’ve seen people snap their tendons when playing badminton and they generally don’t walk after a rupture. So it was looking good.

I continued to see the physio once or twice a week for the rest of Dec and Jan. In this time I had been hiking on trails up to 10 miles without any problems. Although my gate felt a little flat footed at times.

At the end of Jan I went to play in the snow in Seefeld, Austria and was able to get around and do what I wanted whilst there. One thing was walking up a steep snow covered slope to a mountain hut. An elevation of about 700m and walking for just over 1hr. Then tobogganing down. All still looking good.

I then went to see the Surgeon for a check-up in Feb. He didn’t think anything was seriously wrong but sent me for an ultrasound scan to see if it was a bad tear in the calf muscle and would set me back a bit. The ultrasound scan revealed that the tendon was badly ruptured and wouldn’t come back together.

So in March 2015 I was back in hospital to have an FHL Transfer operation, using my big toe tendon. The surgeon said that my tendon had shredded and he had to replace about 4-5 inches of it. I had the usual 4 wks in non-load bearing plaster, followed by 6 wks partial load bearing in the Aircast boot after that. When the boot came off I was under the physio to build up strength in the replacement tendon, with the usual Achilles stretches, but not the stair heel drops. During this stretching period of a couple of months I was never able to do uni-lateral heel lifts on my right leg. The surgeon said this was more than likely due to the reduced size of the replacement tendon.

I am now 8 months post op and still cannot do uni-lateral heel lifts, and in truth I am now struggling with doing any stretches pain free. The ankle always appears to be tight, although not usually directly on the tendon. I am also walking with a limp now as my ankle seems to ache continuously.

I’ve recently seen the surgeon after having an MRI scan done. He said that all appears as it should be and that there is nothing that can be done surgically. The scan showed nothing untoward.

I am now very frustrated. I was glad that I didn’t need to go through another op. However, I am very frustrated that the scan didn’t show any real issues.

Is there anyone out there who has gone through the same recovery, or lack of it. Am I just expecting too much too soon. Any advice greatly appreciated.

5 Responses to “My FHL Operation Story”

  1. HI,
    I’m sorry that you haven’t received any responses to your query. I understand…better to find a problem and establish a course of action… than to be in limbo, and in pain.

    As someone who has also undergone FHL transfer — though only three weeks ago —- I have looked for research documenting differences that we may expect in the recuperation process …Haven’t found much.

    In your case… and potentially in mine… maybe it’s just a matter of time…

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  2. Hi oldduck

    I have found some other FHL bloggers on this site, and maybe I was just expecting too much too soon. I suppose at the end of the day having your Achilles replace is a major bit of surgery.

    Please keep in touch regarding your progress and what works for you. All I can say at the current time is that it gets better once you get rid of the crutches.

  3. Thanks…for the optimistic note. I just order a set of those “Even Up” gadgets that are supposed to make boot walking less onerous. Here’s hoping.

    And I used to love badminton, too. You have to be SO quick…and crafty.

  4. FHL transfer should not take any longer than other rupture repairs but you have had a fair amount of tendon replaced. It may be your repair has left your tendon a bit longer and thereby you will have less push off strength and may limp. I am not sure why your ankle is stiff. If you are not getting the answers from your doc or your doc does not want to investigate further then it could be time for a second opinion. There are simple tests to determine whether your tendon is long. Ultrasound can measure it but you can get an idea from a physio or doc by comparison and measuring the resting angle of each foot with you laying on your stomach and legs bent up.

  5. Update - I have been using the stridder for 5 to 10 mins first thing in the morning and that seems to loosen up my ankle enough to remove most of the pain. It does tighten up as the day goes on but at least it is a positive improvement.

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