When to Seek Medical Care
Call a doctor if you hear or feel a snap or pop, have severe pain, rapid or immediate bruising after an accident, and are unable to use the affected arm or leg. You may have a tendon rupture.
Visit the hospital's emergency department whenever an injury occurs that produces severe pain and is accompanied by a pop or snap. Weakness, inability to move the area involved, inability to bear weight, and deformity of the area are other key symptoms that require a visit to the emergency department.
Because you know your body the best, if something appears to be serious to you, it is usually the best course to be conservative and have an evaluation.
Exams and Tests
Tendon rupture is usually diagnosed using a physical examination. Any imaging is done to confirm the diagnosis and decide the severity of the rupture
- X-rays often show that your patella (kneecap) is lower than its normal position on a side view of the knee.
- Using an MRI, your doctor can tell whether your rupture is partial or complete.
- Your doctor may do a Thompson test. In this test, your doctor will have you kneel on a chair and dangle your foot over the edge. The doctor will then squeeze your calf in a particular place. If the toes on your foot don't point downward when the doctor squeezes, then you probably have a ruptured Achilles tendon.
- In a test called the blood pressure cuff test, your doctor will place a blood pressure cuff on your calf. The cuff is then inflated to 100 mm Hg. The doctor will then move your foot into a toes-up position. If your tendon is intact, it will cause the pressure to rise to about 140 mm Hg. If you have a tendon rupture, the pressure will increase only a small amount.
- You may be able to flex your foot downward because your supporting muscles are intact. You will be unable to support yourself on your tiptoes on the affected side however.
- X-rays taken from the side may show darkening of the triangular fatty tissue-filled space in front of the Achilles tendon or a thickening of the tendon.
- MRI or ultrasound may be used to decide how severe your rupture is, although these tests are usually not needed to make the diagnosis.