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Health Spotlight: Healing the Achilles heel

(WISH) — A long-distance triathlete got back to normal activities after suffering double Achilles heel injuries.

Physical therapy and invasive foot surgery have long been the standards of care for repairing Achilles tendons. But now, there’s a much less invasive procedure which repairs the Achilles tendon in the doctor’s office.

Barbara Lakis is a triathlete – swimming, biking, and running long distances – but over time, she was plagued with leg and foot injuries.

“As you get older, you become less pliable, less flexible. You’re more prone to those injuries.”

“I’ve had this injury to both my Achilles since 2008, since my first marathon, and I’ve been just, kind of suffering through it.”

Unable to even climb the stairs, Lakis considered her standard treatment options of physical therapy and invasive surgery.

“When the doctor offered me, like, Door No. 3 , option No. 3, I took it.”

Dr. Nicholas Anastasio of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, said, “We performed a percutaneous tenotomy procedure, which is a big mouthful for a small surgery.”

Anastasio used a small needle, under ultrasound, to penetrate the scar tissue blocking the tendon.

“The procedure re-establishes that blood flow, and it does mechanically break up the scar tissue to a degree, and that allows the body to take over and heal, and remodel the tendon.”

There is no general anesthesia, general surgery, or prolonged healing time, and it’s performed in the office.

Lakis said, “I’m a very prepared person, so I brought my crutches. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to weight-bear, and I stood up and I could walk!”

And soon enough, run again.

Tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, and hamstring injuries can also be repaired with a percutaneous tenotomy procedure, which usually takes from 15 to 20 minutes.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.