Heel cord lengthening is a common procedure for children with cerebral palsy who walk on their toes. In very basic terms, the tendon is tight, but with a small snip to the tendon (like a rubber band) the tendon will stretch further.
Michael could not stand straight and as he grew his posture became worse. Michael had heel cord lengthening surgery when he was 12 to stretch his tendons. It did require an overnight stay at the hospital and both legs were completely casted straight for three weeks.
(Heel cord lengthening is one of several surgeries Michael has had. Is it painful? Yes. I don’t want any parent to think otherwise. Straighten out your arm. Now actually pull it backwards until it’s uncomfortable and hold it. Imagine what it feels now to be casted in that position for several weeks. Now saying that – was it worth it? Yes. But get a second opinion. One doctor wanted to perform it again, another said he was already too loose. Some of you know how it feels to be put in this situation. What advise would I give you? Do your homework – research, research, research, and go for a third opinion if the first two are not on the same page. Be your child’s advocate.)
Michael’s First Steps at the age of 17!!
Michael’s gait improved dramatically. He was able to move easier and stand straight. His posture looked so good and we were amazed how tall he really was.
Things to Consider Before Scheduling Surgery
Maneuvering is difficult if your doctor requires casting. Michael’s legs were casted straight out from his feet to the tops of his legs. We contacted the school to prepare them. Simple things like the bus lift were difficult to maneuver. We needed to rent a special chair that allowed Michael to lay back and put his feet up. Sitting straight is painful because it pulls at the tendons. At times he was in a lot of pain. I compare it to someone bending my leg further than I could and then casting it that way. It hurts.
Doctors use the word discomfort – that’s a fancy word for painful. I’ve come to realize that doctors perform surgery, visit the patient when they are heavily medicated, and schedule a check-up in two to three weeks. They don’t live all of the in between, painful, how do we get around times. Talk to other parents who have been through the procedure to get a realistic expectation.
Parents should know that this procedure sometimes needs to be repeated as the child grows.
The photo of a very proud mom of two very special sons.
Gillette Children’s Hospital – This is the hospital we chose for Multi-level surgeries. Very professional and experts in their field. There is great information in this link
Government site – comparison of children who had heel cord lengthening