Gastrocnemius Recession Surgery

Gastrocnemius recession surgery is a surgical procedure used to treat conditions like heel cord contracture, aka calf muscle contracture. This condition, in which the muscle becomes tight, limits the range of motion in the ankle. The procedure involves making an incision in the back ofFoot condition the leg and cutting a portion of the gastrocnemius muscle. This muscle identifies one of the muscles that make up the calf. This can help to increase the range of motion in the ankle and improve the patient’s ability to walk. The recovery time for this procedure can vary depending on the individual case, but patients typically return to normal activities within a few weeks.

What conditions does Gastrocnemius Recession Surgery Correct?

Surgeons use Gastrocnemius recession surgery to primarily correct conditions that involve a tight or shortened gastrocnemius muscle. This muscle identifies one of the muscles that make up the calf. Some other common conditions that this procedure treats include:

  • Heel cord contracture: Also known as calf muscle contracture, this condition occurs when the calf muscle becomes tight and limits the range of motion in the ankle.
  • Equinus: This condition occurs when the heel is in a lower position than the toes. This condition causes the ankle to appear in a plantarflexed position.  In addition, the gastrocnemius muscle is one of the main muscles responsible for this position.  Doctors have noted that this condition can appear as congenital or acquired
  • Clubfoot: A congenital condition in which the foot gets twisted inwards and downwards. Surgeons use Gastrocnemius recession surgery as part of a treatment plan for clubfoot to correct the position of the foot.
  • Cerebral Palsy: Surgeons use Gastrocnemius recession surgery to treat children who have cerebral palsy and gait issues caused by muscle spasticity.

It’s important to note that our doctors use various other methods besides Gastrocnemius recession surgery for the above conditions.  Furthermore, this surgery is usually used in conjunction with other treatments such as physiotherapy, braces, and casting. The decision to perform surgery occurs on a case-by-case basis — contingent on the specific needs of the patient.

When Should Gastrocnemius Recession Surgery Occur?

Some of the factors that may convince a doctor to recommend this procedure include:

  • Persistent limitations in range of motion: If a patient has a significant limitation in the range of motion in their ankle. After trying other treatments such as physical therapy and bracing, our surgeons may consider an operation.
  • Severe pain: If a patient experiences severe pain in the calf or ankle, our doctors may recommend surgery to alleviate this pain.
  • Difficulty with activities of daily living: When patients experience difficulties with activities of daily living such as walking or climbing stairs our surgeons may recommend surgery.
  • Failure of conservative treatments: When patients try conservative treatments such as physical therapy, bracing, or casting, and does not experience improvement, surgery may occur.
  • Neurological conditions: Doctors use gastrocnemius recession surgery to treat children with cerebral palsy or other neurological conditions that cause muscle calf spasticity.

Doctors will report that gastrocnemius recession surgery does not always present the best option.  Our doctors will carefully consider the risks and benefits of the procedure before recommending it. They will also consider the overall health of the patient and their ability to tolerate the surgery and recovery period.

How Long does it Take to Completely Recover from a Gastrocnemius Recession Surgery?

The recovery time after gastrocnemius recession surgery can vary depending on a number of factors.  These factors are the patient’s overall health, the severity of their condition, and the type of surgery performed. Typically, the recovery period is around 4-6 weeks, but it can vary from person to person.

Immediately after surgery, patients will have a cast or a splint on their leg to keep the ankle immobilized. They will also use a compression stocking and the doctors will instruct the patient to use crutches.  The crutches will help to avoid weight bearing on the operated leg.

After a few days, the patient will start to do some light exercises to improve blood circulation and prevent muscle stiffness.  These exercises will gradually increase as the recovery progresses.

After the cast or splint is removed, the patient will begin physical therapy to help regain strength and flexibility in the ankle. The physical therapy will be tailored to the individual patient’s needs.  The exercises may include exercises such as calf stretches, heel raises, and balance exercises.

It’s important to note that even after the cast is removed, patients should avoid high-impact activities.  Our doctors refer to these as running or jumping for several weeks to avoid any risk of re-injury.

It can take several months for the muscle to fully heal and for the patient to regain their full range of motion and strength. The patient should follow their surgeon’s instructions and physical therapy plan to ensure proper healing and successful recovery.

Should Physical Therapy Occur after Surgery?

Physical therapy is an important part of the recovery process for patients who have undergone gastrocnemius recession surgery. Proper physical therapy can help to improve the range of motion, strength, and function of the ankle. Physical Therapy can help to prevent complications such as scar tissue formation, stiffness, and muscle weakness.

Physical therapy typically begins after the cast or splint has been removed and the incision has healed. The therapist will work with the patient to develop a personalized exercise program that will help to improve strength and flexibility in the ankle and calf.

The Exercises will Typically Include:

  • Calf stretching: To improve flexibility and prevent stiffness in the gastrocnemius muscle.
  • Heel raises: To strengthen the gastrocnemius and other muscles in the calf.
  • Balance exercises: To improve stability and prevent falls.
  • Gait training: To improve the patient’s ability to walk and increase the range of motion in the ankle.

Physical therapy plays a very important part in the full recovery of our patients.  The therapists will monitor the progress of the patient and adjust the exercises accordingly.  This will ensure that the patient is making progress and prevent any complications. Patients can conduct physical therapy in person or via telehealth, and the frequency and duration of therapy will depend on the individual case and the patient’s needs.

It’s important to note that patients should always follow the instructions of their surgeon and physical therapist.  The patient should attend all scheduled therapy sessions to ensure a successful recovery. Our practice, Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists, has offices in Dallas, Arlington, Frisco, and McKinney, Texas.  We invite parents who have questions to contact us and make an appointment for their child.  We specialize in children and our practice has been granted numerous honors.


Science Direct: Gastrocnemius recession Surgery