Operative vs Nonoperative Management of Achilles Tendon Rupture: A Cost Analysis

Christopher J. Murdock, Arinze J. Ochuba, Amy L. Xu, Morgan Snow, Rachel Bronheim, Ettore Vulcano, Amiethab A. Aiyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Achilles tendon rupture (ATR) is a common injury with a growing incidence rate. Treatment is either operative or nonoperative. However, evidence is lacking on the cost comparison between these modalities. The objective of this study is to investigate the cost differences between operative and nonoperative treatment of ATR using a large national database. Methods: Patients who received treatment for an ATR were abstracted from the large national commercial insurance claims database, Marketscan Commercial Claims and Encounters Database (n = 100 825) and divided into nonoperative (n = 75 731) and operative (n = 25 094) cohorts. Demographics, location, and health care charges were compared using multivariable regression analysis. Subanalysis of costs for medical services including clinic visits, imaging studies, opioid usage, and physical therapy were conducted. Patients who underwent secondary repair were excluded. Results: Operative treatment was associated with increased net and total payments, coinsurance, copayment, deductible, coordination of benefits (COB) / savings, greater number of clinic visits, radiographs, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and physical therapy (PT) sessions, and with higher net costs due to clinic visits, radiographs, MRIs, and PT (P <.001). Operative repair at an ambulatory surgical center was associated with a lower net and total payment, and a significantly higher deductible compared to in-hospital settings (P <.001). Both cohorts received similar numbers of opioid prescriptions during the study period. Yet, operative patients had a significantly shorter duration of opioid use. After controlling for confounders, operative repair was also independently associated with lower net costs due to opioid prescriptions. Conclusion: Compared with nonoperatively managed ATR, surgical repair is associated with greater costs partially because of greater utilization of clinic visits, imaging, and physical therapy sessions. However, surgical costs may be reduced when procedures are performed in ambulatory surgery centers vs hospital facilities. Nonoperative treatment is associated with higher prescription costs secondary to longer duration of opioid use. Level of Evidence: Level III, retrospective cohort study.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFoot and Ankle Orthopaedics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Achilles tendon ruptures
  • cost utility
  • cost-comparison
  • nonoperative
  • operative
  • opioid
  • physical therapy


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