Anterior Achilles tendon bursitis is inflammation of the retromalleolar (retrocalcaneal) bursa, located anterior (deep) to the attachment of the Achilles tendon to the calcaneus (see figure Bursitis in the heel). Diagnosis is mainly clinical. Treatment may include local injection.
(See also Overview of Foot and Ankle Disorders.)
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, rheumatoid arthritis, gout). On occasion, small calcaneal erosions may result from severe inflammation.
Symptoms and Signs of Anterior Achilles Tendon Bursitis
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 of Anterior Achilles Tendon Bursitis
- 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 rheumatoid arthritis or other rheumatic disorders.
Treatment of Anterior Achilles Tendon Bursitis
- Intrabursal injection of a soluble corticosteroid/anesthetic solution
A corticosteroid/anesthetic injection, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (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.