Selective Tibial Neurotomy for Spastic Equinovarus Foot: Operative Technique

Oper Neurosurg (Hagerstown). 2023 Nov 1;25(5):e267-e271. doi: 10.1227/ons.0000000000000863. Epub 2023 Sep 4.


Background and objectives: Spastic equinovarus foot (SEF) is a common complication of stroke and other upper motor neuron injuries. It is characterized by a plantigrade and inverted foot, often with toe curling, causing significant disability from pain, gait, and balance difficulties. Management includes physical therapy, antispasticity drugs, orthoses, chemical neurolysis, or botulinum toxin, all of which may be insufficient, sedating, or transient. Selective tibial neurotomy (STN) provides a surgical option that is effective and long-lasting. Our goal is to provide a concise description of our technique for performing the STN for treatment of SEF. We discuss the standard posterior approach with surgical variations used by other groups and a medial approach, should the posterior approach be insufficient.

Methods: A posterior leg approach allows access to the tibial nerve and its branches to the bilateral gastrocnemius muscles, soleus, posterior tibialis, and extrinsic toe flexors. A medial approach is used if the toe flexors cannot be accessed sufficiently from the posterior approach. Nerve branch targets identified by preoperative functional assessment are carefully exposed and fully neurolysed distally to identify all terminal branches to each muscle of interest before neurotomy.

Results: The STN is a powerful tool for treating SEF, with an immediate and lasting effect. Approximately 80% of the target muscle should be denervated to ensure long-term efficacy while maintaining adequate function of the muscle through collateral innervation.

Conclusion: The STN is a safe and effective outpatient procedure that can be performed by an experienced nerve surgeon to improve balance and ambulation and reduce pain for patients with SEF. Large clinical trials are necessary to further establish this underutilized procedure in the United States.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clubfoot* / etiology
  • Clubfoot* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Muscle Spasticity / etiology
  • Muscle Spasticity / surgery
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Stroke* / surgery