Background: The pathology manifested in posterior tibial tendon insufficiency (PTTI) is not limited to the posterior tibial tendon. The association of ligament failure with deformity has been discussed in numerous publications, but extensive documentation of the structures involved has not been performed. The purpose of this observational study was to identify the pattern of ligament involvement using standardized, high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in a series of 31 consecutive patients diagnosed with PTTI compared to an age matched control group without PTTI.
Method: The structures evaluated by MRI were the posterior tibial tendon, superomedial and inferomedial components of the spring ligament complex, talocalcaneal interosseous ligament, long and short plantar ligaments, plantar fascia, deltoid ligament, plantar naviculocuneiform ligament, and tarsometatarsal ligaments. Structural derangement was graded on a five-part scale (0 to IV) with level 0 being normal and level IV indicating a tear of more than 50% of the cross-sectional area of the ligament. Standard flatfoot measurements taken from preoperative plain standing radiographs were correlated with the MRI grading system.
Results: Statistically significant differences in frequency of pathology in the PTTI group and controls were found for the superomedial calcaneonavicular ligament (p < 0.0001), inferomedial calcaneonavicular ligament (p < 0.0001), interosseous ligament (p = 0.0009), anterior component of the superficial deltoid (p < 0.0001), plantar metatarsal ligaments (p = 0.0002) and plantar naviculocuneiform ligament (p = 0.0006). The ligaments with the most severe involvement were the spring ligament complex (superomedial and inferomedial calcaneonavicular ligaments) and the talocalcaneal interosseous ligament.
Conclusion: Ligament involvement is extensive in PTTI, and the spring ligament complex is the most frequently affected. Because ligament pathology in PTTI is nearly as common as posterior tibial tendinopathy, treatment should seek to protect or prevent progressive failure of these ligaments.