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.
Many health conditions can create a painful flatfoot, an injury to the ligaments in the foot can cause the joints to fall out of alignment. The ligaments support the bones and prevent them from
moving. If the ligaments are torn, the foot will become flat and painful. This more commonly occurs in the middle of the foot (Lisfranc injury), but can also occur in the back of the foot. In
addition to ligament injuries, fractures and dislocations of the bones in the midfoot can also lead to a flatfoot deformity.
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.
Perform a structural assessment of the foot and ankle. Check the ankle for alignment and position. When it comes to patients with severe PTTD, the deltoid has failed, causing an instability of the
ankle and possible valgus of the ankle. This is a rare and difficult problem to address. However, if one misses it, it can lead to dire consequences and potential surgical failure. Check the heel
alignment and position of the heel both loaded and during varus/valgus stress. Compare range of motion of the heel to the normal contralateral limb. Check alignment of the midtarsal joint for
collapse and lateral deviation. Noting the level of lateral deviation in comparison to the contralateral limb is critical for surgical planning. Check midfoot alignment of the naviculocuneiform
joints and metatarsocuneiform joints both for sag and hypermobility.
Non surgical Treatment
Although AAF is not reversible without surgery, appropriate treatment should address the patient?s current symptoms, attempt to reduce pain, and allow continued ambulation. In the early stages,
orthotic and pedorthic solutions can address the loss of integrity of the foot?s support structures, potentially inhibiting further destruction.3-5 As a general principle, orthotic devices should
only block or limit painful or destructive motion without reducing or restricting normal motion or muscle function. Consequently, the treatment must match the stage of the deformity.
Stage two deformities are less responsive to conservative therapies that can be effective in mild deformities. Bone procedures are necessary at this stage in order to recreate the arch and stabilize
the foot. These procedures include isolated fusion procedures, bone grafts, and/or the repositioning of bones through cuts called osteotomies. The realigned bones are generally held in place with
screws, pins, plates, or staples while the bone heals. A tendon transfer may or may not be utilized depending on the condition of the posterior tibial tendon. Stage three deformities are better
treated with surgical correction, in healthy patients. Patients that are unable to tolerate surgery or the prolonged healing period are better served with either arch supports known as orthotics or
bracing such as the Richie Brace. Surgical correction at this stage usually requires fusion procedures such as a triple or double arthrodesis. This involves fusing the two or three major bones in the
back of the foot together with screws or pins. The most common joints fused together are the subtalar joint, talonavicular joint, and the calcaneocuboid joint. By fusing the bones together the
surgeon is able to correct structural deformity and alleviate arthritic pain. Tendon transfer procedures are usually not beneficial at this stage. Stage four deformities are treated similarly but
with the addition of fusing the ankle joint.