Peroneal artery safe zone in the posterolateral approach to the distal tibia: A CT angiogram based anatomical study

Injury. 2022 Mar;53(3):1268-1275. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2021.09.021. Epub 2021 Sep 20.


Objectives: The posterolateral approach to the distal tibia is commonly used for stabilisation of ankle fractures as it allows good visualisation and direct reduction of the posterior distal tibia and malleolar fragments. This approach can also be used for internal fixation of an associated lateral malleolus fracture. The aim of our study is to describe the surgical anatomy of the peroneal artery (PA) in relation to the tibial plafond and the distal fibula; thereby suggesting a safe zone during proximal dissection of posterolateral approach.

Methods: Using Computed Tomography Angiographic (CTA) study, the course of the PA in relation to the tibial plafond and distal fibula was analysed in 142 lower limbs (bilateral limbs of 71 adult patients; 43 males and 28 females). Axial, coronal, and sagittal CT sections were cross-linked to specify the position of the PA. The PA course was identified and the level of its distal bifurcation over the tibia was marked. Perpendicular measurements were made from this point to the tibial plafond and tip of distal fibula.

Results: The PA bifurcated distally at mean 58.3±24.2mm (SD) (range: 37.0-115.0mm) proximal to the right tibial plafond and mean 81.9±24.4mm (range: 54.0-137.0mm) from the right distal fibular tip. In the contralateral side, the PA bifurcated at mean 57.9±23.3mm (range: 36.0-125.0mm) proximal to the left tibial plafond and 81.8±23.9mm (range: 54.0-147.0mm) from the left distal fibular tip. The difference between the right and the left side of distal bifurcation point diameter of the same patient was assessed, range (0.0-58.0mm) with median 2.0mm and IQR 10.0mm. Three different PA vasculature patterns were identified.

Conclusions: It is important for surgeons to be aware of the surgical anatomy of PA to avoid inadvertent injury during posterolateral approach to distal tibia. The PA may bifurcate as close as 36mm from the tibial plafond with possible variation bilaterally. Therefore, special attention needs to be considered by the operating surgeon while dissecting in this region due to the wide anatomical variation in vasculature. However, once the PA is mobilised, any fixation modality including posterior buttress plate could be safely performed.

Keywords: Ankle; Approach; Artery; Damage; Peroneal; Posterolateral.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Angiography
  • Ankle Fractures* / surgery
  • Female
  • Fibula / injuries
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Tibia / anatomy & histology
  • Tibia / diagnostic imaging
  • Tibia / surgery
  • Tibial Arteries / diagnostic imaging
  • Tibial Arteries / surgery
  • Tibial Fractures* / diagnostic imaging
  • Tibial Fractures* / surgery
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed