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Gastrocnemius Recession: Procedure, Recovery & Complications

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  • 0:04 Gastrocnemius Equinus…
  • 1:10 Gastrocnemius Recession
  • 1:49 Recovery
  • 2:32 Possible Complications
  • 2:57 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Kirstyn Wade

Kirstyn is a registered nurse and has a master's degree in Nursing Education. She has taught college Nursing courses.

Gastrocnemius recession, or gastrocnemius release, is a procedure to lengthen a contracted gastrocnemius muscle; the largest muscle in the calf. In this lesson you will learn about the when this procedure is indicated, the recovery time, and any potential complications.

Gastrocnemius Equinus Contracture

Michael is a six-year-old boy who has several complex medical conditions, one of which is a condition called gastrocnemius equinus contracture. This condition involves a tightening of the calf muscles, which causes an abnormal gait, making Michael walk and stand on his tip-toes.

The calf is made up of two muscles: the soleus, and the gastrocnemius, which is the larger of the two. The tendons of these two muscles together form the Achilles tendon, which connects the heel of the foot to the calf.

A gastrocnemius equinus contracture is a hardening and shortening of the gastrocnemius muscle and tendon. Like Michael, those who suffer with this condition find it difficult, or nearly impossible, to walk properly, with the heel of the foot on the ground. A gastrocnemius equinus contracture can also lead to a variety of foot and calf problems, including pain in the calf, heel, and toes, as well as deformities of the foot.

While his physician and his parents have tried physical therapy and custom-made splints to help treat this condition, none of these treatments have been very successful. His physician is now recommending a gastrocnemius recession procedure to help lengthen his calf muscle.

Gastrocnemius Recession

Gastrocnemius recession, or gastrocnemius release, is a surgical procedure that is performed to help lengthen the gastrocnemius tendon in the calf. Just as Michael's physician recommended, physical therapy to stretch the Achilles tendon is most often the first treatment. Generally, it's only when this proves unsuccessful would a gastrocnemius recession be indicated.

The procedure involves making an incision on the back of the calf, and accessing the gastrocnemius tendon. The surgeon will then cut the tendon, and suture (stitch) the tendon to other tissue, or simply allow it to heal on its own. In either case, the tendon, once fully healed, should be properly elongated and allow full functioning of the leg and foot.

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