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For many adults, years of wear and tear on the feet can lead to a gradual and potentially debilitating collapse of the arch. However, a new treatment approach based on early surgical intervention is achieving a high rate of longterm success. Based on results of clinical studies of adults with flat feet, we now believe that reconstructive surgery in the early stages of the condition can prevent complications later on. Left untreated, the arch eventually will collapse, causing debilitating arthritis in the foot and ankle. At this end stage, surgical fusions are often required to stabilize the foot.
As the name suggests, adult-acquired flatfoot occurs once musculoskeletal maturity is reached, and it can present for a number of reasons, though one stands out among the others. While fractures, dislocations, tendon lacerations, and other such traumatic events do contribute to adult-acquired flatfoot as a significant lower extremity disorder, as mentioned above, damage to the posterior tibial tendon is most often at the heart of adult-acquired flatfoot. One study further elaborates on the matter by concluding that ?60% of patients [presenting with posterior tibial tendon damage and adult-acquired flatfoot] were obese or had diabetes mellitus, hypertension, previous surgery or trauma to the medial foot, or treatment with steroids?.
Patients often experience pain and/or deformity at the ankle or hindfoot. When the posterior tibial tendon does not work properly, a number of changes can occur to the foot and ankle. In the earlier stages, symptoms often include pain and tenderness along the posterior tibial tendon behind the inside of the ankle. As the tendon progressively fails, deformity of the foot and ankle may occur. This deformity can include progressive flattening of the arch, shifting of the heel so that it no longer is aligned underneath the rest of the leg, rotation and deformity of the forefoot, tightening of the heel cord, development of arthritis, and deformity of the ankle joint. At certain stages of this disorder, pain may shift from the inside to the outside aspect of the ankle as the heel shifts outward and structures are pinched laterally.
There are four stages of adult-acquired flatfoot deformity (AAFD). The severity of the deformity determines your stage. For example, Stage I means there is a flatfoot position but without deformity. Pain and swelling from tendinitis is common in this stage. Stage II there is a change in the foot alignment. This means a deformity is starting to develop. The physician can still move the bones back into place manually (passively). Stage III adult-acquired flatfoot deformity (AAFD) tells us there is a fixed deformity. This means the ankle is stiff or rigid and doesn???t move beyond a neutral (midline) position. Stage IV is characterized by deformity in the foot and the ankle. The deformity may be flexible or fixed. The joints often show signs of degenerative joint disease (arthritis).
Non surgical Treatment
Nonoperative therapy for adult-acquired flatfoot is a reasonable treatment option that is likely to be beneficial for most patients. In this article, we describe the results of a retrospective cohort study that focused on nonoperative measures, including bracing, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications, used to treat adult-acquired flatfoot in 64 consecutive patients. The results revealed the incidence of successful nonsurgical treatment to be 87.5% (56 of 64 patients), over the 27-month observation period. Overall, 78.12% of the patients with adult-acquired flatfoot were obese (body mass index [BMI] = 30), and 62.5% of the patients who failed nonsurgical therapy were obese; however, logistic regression failed to show that BMI was statistically significantly associated with the outcome of treatment. The use of any form of bracing was statistically significantly associated with successful nonsurgical treatment (fully adjusted OR = 19.8621, 95% CI 1.8774 to 210.134), whereas the presence of a split-tear of the tibialis posterior on magnetic resonance image scans was statistically significantly associated with failed nonsurgical treatment (fully adjusted OR = 0.016, 95% CI 0.0011 to 0.2347). The results of this investigation indicate that a systematic nonsurgical treatment approach to the treatment of the adult-acquired flatfoot deformity can be successful in most cases.
For those patients with PTTD that have severe deformity or have not improved with conservative treatments, surgery may be necessary to return them to daily activity. Surgery for PTTD may include repair of the diseased tendon and possible tendon transfer to a nearby healthy tendon, surgery on the surrounding bones or joints to prevent biomechanical abnormalities that may be a contributing factor or both.
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