Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction is one of several terms to describe a painful, progressive flatfoot deformity in adults. Other terms include posterior tibial tendon insufficiency and adult acquired flatfoot
. The term adult acquired flatfoot is more appropriate because it allows a broader recognition of causative factors, not
only limited to the posterior tibial tendon, an event where the posterior tibial tendon looses strength and function. The adult acquired flatfoot is a progressive, symptomatic (painful) deformity
resulting from gradual stretch (attenuation) of the tibialis posterior tendon as well as the ligaments that support the arch of the foot.
Women are affected by Adult Acquired Flatfoot four times more frequently than men. Adult Flatfoot generally occurs in middle to older age people. Most people who acquire the condition already have
flat feet. One arch begins to flatten more, then pain and swelling develop on the inside of the ankle. This condition generally affects only one foot. It is unclear why women are affected more often
than men. But factors that may increase your risk of Adult Flatfoot include diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
The first stage represents inflammation and symptoms originating from an irritated posterior tibial tendon, which is still functional. Stage two is characterized by a change in the alignment of the
foot noted on observation while standing (see above photos). The deformity is supple meaning the foot is freely movable and a ?normal? position can be restored by the examiner. Stage two is also
associated with the inability to perform a single-leg heel rise. The third stage is dysfunction of the posterior tibial tendon is a flatfoot deformity that becomes stiff because of arthritis.
Prolonged deformity causes irritation to the involved joints resulting in arthritis. The fourth phase is a flatfoot deformity either supple (stage two) or stiff (stage 3) with involvement of the
ankle joint. This occurs when the deltoid ligament, the major supporting structure on the inside of the ankle, fails to provide support. The ankle becomes unstable and will demonstrate a tilted
appearance on X-ray. Failure of the deltoid ligament results from an inward displacement of the weight bearing forces. When prolonged, this change can lead to ankle arthritis. The vast majority of
patients with acquired adult flatfoot deformity are stage 2 by the time they seek treatment from a physician.
Observation by a skilled foot clinician and a hands-on evaluation of the foot and ankle is the most accurate diagnostic technique. Your Dallas foot doctor may have you do a walking examination (the
most reliable way to check for the deformity). During walking, the affected foot appears more pronated and deformed. Your podiatrist may do muscle testing to look for strength deficiencies. During a
single foot raise test, the foot doctor will ask you to rise up on the tip of your toes while keeping your unaffected foot off the ground. If your posterior tendon has been attenuated or ruptured,
you will be unable to lift your heel off the floor. In less severe cases, it is possible to rise onto your toes, but your heel will not invert normally. X-rays are not always helpful as a diagnostic
tool for Adult Flatfoot because both feet will generally demonstrate a deformity. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may show tendon injury and inflammation, but can?t always be relied on for a
complete diagnosis. In most cases, a MRI is not necessary to diagnose a posterior tibial tendon injury. An ultrasound may also be used to confirm the deformity, but is usually not required for an
Non surgical Treatment
PTTD is a progressive condition. Early treatment is needed to prevent relentless progression to a more advanced disease which can lead to more problems for that affected foot. In general, the
treatments include rest. Reducing or even stopping activities that worsen the pain is the initial step. Switching to low-impact exercise such as cycling, elliptical trainers, or swimming is helpful.
These activities do not put a large impact load on the foot. Ice. Apply cold packs on the most painful area of the posterior tibial tendon frequently to keep down the swelling. Placing ice over the
tendon immediately after completing an exercise helps to decrease the inflammation around the tendon.
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Medication (NSAIDS). Drugs, such as arcoxia, voltaren and celebrex help to reduce pain and inflammation. Taking such medications prior to an exercise activity helps to
limit inflammation around the tendon. However, long term use of these drugs can be harmful to you with side effects including peptic ulcer disease and renal impairment or failure. Casting. A short
leg cast or walking boot may be used for 6 to 8 weeks in the acutely painful foot. This allows the tendon to rest and the swelling to go down. However, a cast causes the other muscles of the leg to
atrophy (decrease in strength) and thus is only used if no other conservative treatment works. Most people can be helped with orthotics and braces. An orthotic is a shoe insert. It is the most common
non-surgical treatment for a flatfoot and it is very safe to use. A custom orthotic is required in patients who have moderate to severe changes in the shape of the foot. Physiotherapy helps to
strengthen the injured tendon and it can help patients with mild to moderate disease of the posterior tibial tendon.
Although non-surgical treatments can successfully manage the symptoms, they do not correct the underlying problem. It can require a life-long commitment to wearing the brace during periods of
increased pain or activity demands. This will lead a majority of patients to choose surgical correction of the deformity, through Reconstructive Surgery. All of the considerations that were extremely
important during the evaluation stage become even more important when creating a surgical plan. Generally, a combination of procedures are utilized in the same setting, to allow full correction of
the deformity. Many times, this can be performed as a same-day surgery, without need for an overnight hospital stay. However, one or two day hospital admissions can be utilized to help manage the
post-operative pain. Although the recovery process can require a significant investment of time, the subsequent decades of improved function and activity level, as well as decreased pain, leads to a
substantial return on your investment.