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Bursitis Following Foot Surgery

Overview

Retrocalcaneal bursitis is a painful inflammation of the soft tissues at the attachment of the Achilles tendon to the back of the heel bone. The retrocalcaneus identifies the ?retro? or behind and ?calcaneus? or heel bone. Bursitis relates to inflammation of a bursa in the retrocalcaneal region. A bursa anatomically is a fluid filled sack that is located around tendinous attachments in the body. The retrocalcaneal bursa as identified in the photo 1 protects the Achilles tendon just prior to its insertion to the retrocalcaneal region. The retrocalcaneal bursa cushions the Achilles tendon and normally allows pain free motion of the Achilles tendon over the calcaneus.

Causes

Inflammation of the bursa causes synovial cells to multiply and thereby increases collagen formation and fluid production. A more permeable capillary membrane allows entrance of high protein fluid. The bursal lining may be replaced by granulation tissue followed by fibrous tissue. The bursa becomes filled with fluid, which is often rich in fibrin, and the fluid can become hemorrhagic. One study suggests that this process may be mediated by cytokines, metalloproteases, and cyclooxygenases.

Symptoms

When the bursa becomes inflamed after an injury, symptoms usually develop suddenly. When the bursa develops without an injury, symptoms may develop gradually. With both posterior and anterior Achilles tendon bursitis, symptoms usually include swelling and warmth at the back of the heel. A minimally red, swollen, tender spot develops on the back of the heel. When the inflamed bursa enlarges, it appears as a red lump under the skin of the heel and causes pain at and above the heel. If posterior Achilles tendon bursitis becomes chronic, the swelling may become hard, fluid-filled, and red or flesh-colored.

Diagnosis

The doctor will discuss your symptoms and visually assess the bones and soft tissue in your foot. If a soft tissue injury is suspected, an MRI will likely be done to view where and how much the damage is in your ankle. An x-ray may be recommended to rule out a bone spur or other foreign body as the cause of your ankle pain. As the subcutaneous bursa is close to the surface of the skin, it is more susceptible to septic, or infectious, bursitis caused by a cut or scrape at the back of the heel. Septic bursitis required antibiotics to get rid of the infection. Your doctor will be able to determine whether there is an infection or not by drawing a small sample of the bursa fluid with a needle.

Non Surgical Treatment

All types of bursitis often can be successfully managed non-surgically, and possible treatments include use of ice packs or compressive dressings, activity modification that may reduce stress or irritation, administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or antibiotics, corticosteroid injections (knee and elbow), stretching exercises, and/or change of footwear (heel). Surgery may be required in patients whose symptoms remain following these treatments and in certain situations when infection is involved.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery to remove the damaged bursa may be performed in extreme cases. If the bursitis is caused by an infection, then additional treatment is needed. Septic bursitis is caused by the presence of a pus-forming organism, usually staphylococcus aureus. This is confirmed by examining a sample of the fluid in the bursa and requires treatment with antibiotics taken by mouth, injected into a muscle or into a vein (intravenously). The bursa will also need to be drained by needle two or three times over the first week of treatment. When a patient has such a serious infection, there may be underlying causes. There could be undiscovered diabetes, or an inefficient immune system caused by human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV).

Prevention

Continue to wear your orthotics for work and exercise to provide stability and restore foot function. Select suitable shoes for work and physical activity that provide stability for the heel. Regular stretching of the calf muscle can prevent heel bursitis. Do not suddenly increase activity amount without appropriate conditioning.

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