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Anterior Achilles Tendon Bursitis

(Albert Disease; Retromalleolar Bursitis)

By Kendrick Alan Whitney, DPM, Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine

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Anterior Achilles tendon bursitis is inflammation of the retromalleolar (retrocalcaneal) bursa, located anterior (deep) to the attachment of the Achilles tendon to the calcaneus. Diagnosis is mainly clinical. Treatment may include local injection.

Bursitis in the Heel

Normally, only one bursa is in the heel, between the Achilles tendon and the calcaneus. This bursa may become inflamed, swollen, and painful, resulting in anterior Achilles tendon bursitis.

Bursitis is due to trauma (eg, caused by rigid or poorly fitting shoes) or inflammatory arthritis (eg, RA, gout). On occasion, small calcaneal erosions may result from severe inflammation.

Symptoms and Signs

Symptoms and signs caused by trauma or gout develop rapidly; those caused by another systemic disorder develop gradually. Pain, swelling, and warmth around the heel are common, as are difficulty walking and wearing shoes. The bursa is tender. Initially, the swelling is localized anterior to the Achilles tendon but in time extends medially and laterally.

Diagnosis

  • Clinical evaluation and x-rays

Fracture of the posterolateral talar tubercle usually causes tenderness anterior to the insertion of the Achilles tendon. Bursitis is often differentiated from the fracture by the localization of warmth and swelling contiguous to the tendon and pain localized primarily in the soft tissue. Also, using the thumb and index finger, compressing side-to-side anterior to the Achilles tendon causes pain. X-rays are taken to rule out fracture and to reveal erosive calcaneal changes characteristic of chronic RA or other rheumatic disorders.

Treatment

  • Intrabursal injection of a soluble corticosteroid/anesthetic solution

A corticosteroid/anesthetic injection, NSAIDs, and warm or cold compresses may be effective. Care must be taken to inject only the bursal sac and not the tendon proper because tendon injection may lead to tendon weakening or tearing, predisposing to subsequent rupture.

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* This is the Professional Version. *