What is the gastrocnemius?
The gastrocnemius and the soleus are two muscles that make up the calf. The gastroc is the larger of the two muscles. The gastroc tendon combines with the soleus tendon to form the Achilles tendon.
Calf tightness can prevent the ankle from bending up fully. This may make it difficult to walk with the heel on the floor. Over time this can cause problems such as pain and deformity. Calf tightness may contribute to many foot problems, including heel pain, Achilles tendon pain, flatfoot deformity, toe pain and bunions.
What are the goals of a gastrocnemius release?
A gastroc release lengthens the gastrocnemius tendon. This is done to lower the pressure at the front of the foot, improve foot function, decrease deformity and prevent recurrence of problems.
What signs indicate surgery may be needed?
This surgery is done in patients with tightness of the gastroc that has not improved with Achilles tendon stretching. This procedure is often combined with others.
When should I avoid surgery?
Reasons to avoid a gastroc release include tightness involving other tendons. This could prevent correction by the gastroc release.
General Details of Procedure
There are a number of ways to lengthen the gastroc tendon. Typically, an incision is made at the back-inside of the mid-calf. The gastroc tendon is found and cut. The cut tendon heals in an elongated position.
What happens after surgery?
For the first two weeks after surgery, you will wear a boot brace or similar device. It is important to keep the ankle in a proper position while the tendon is healing. A cramping feeling in the back of the calf is normal for a while. You can begin stretching the calf as soon you are comfortable.
It is important to stretch the ankle with the knee straight. The amount of time spent in a boot or splint may vary. You may be asked to wear this device at night for six weeks following surgery. If the gastroc release is done with other procedures the post-operative course may vary.
There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots.
After a gastroc release, some patients experience nerve injury that results in irritation or numbness over the outside of the heel. This is usually temporary. In addition, some patients may notice a difference in the appearance of one calf compared to the other and temporary calf weakness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are my calf muscles tight?
Most frequently a tight calf muscle is an inherited problem that only causes problems later in life. Other reasons for calf tightness are nerve injuries, muscle problems and other medical problems like stroke and diabetes. People can also get tight calf muscles after trauma to the leg, ankle or foot.
Will a gastrocnemius lengthening affect my strength or ability to walk?
This procedure will cause some weakness but most patients will not notice it. Some patients may have a subtle limp, but this typically resolves within six months of surgery.
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