Revision Surgery for Failed Medial and Lateral Ligament Repair of the Hindfoot and Ankle

Revision Surgery for Failed Medial and Lateral Ligament Repair of the Hindfoot and Ankle

Troy J. Boffeli, Kyle W. Abben, Chloe Sakow


Recurrent varus or valgus instability of the hindfoot (rearfoot) and ankle despite prior ligament reconstruction is a challenging problem that often requires reconstructive procedures to address underlying deformities including cavus foot and pes planovalgus, respectively. Procedure selection will be the main focus of this chapter, intended to help the surgeon decide which combination of forefoot, rearfoot, and ankle procedures are best able to address these complex biomechanical deformities, which often involve failure of the soft tissue structures and late-stage degenerative joint disease (DJD). Evidence is lacking to help guide surgical treatment as revision surgery is difficult to study since each patient presents with a unique set of circumstances regarding underlying deformity, degree of tissue or joint degeneration, and past surgical treatment.

Lateral Ligament Insufficiency of the Hindfoot and Ankle


Chronic lateral ankle instability occurs in approximately 20% of patients who have acute ankle sprains, which largely represents the population that is treated with lateral ankle stabilization (LAS) procedures.1,2 A small subset of those who undergo surgical repair have persistent or recurrent pain and instability, which can be associated with underlying cavus foot deformity, resulting in failure of the repaired lateral collateral ligaments. Revision surgery under these circumstances will often require some degree of cavus foot reconstruction including osseous procedures and tendon balancing in addition to repeat lateral collateral ligament repair.

Patients who have recurrent chronic ankle instability (CAI) symptoms despite prior surgical intervention also frequently have other concomitant pathologies: synovial impingement of the ankle and/or subtalar joint (STJ), osteochondral lesions (OCD), DJD, and peroneal tendinopathy, which need to be addressed with revision surgery (Figure 18.1).3

Figure 18.1 Intra-articular ankle joint pathology is frequently present in patients with chronic ankle instability.Ankle and subtalar joint arthroscopic debridement is therefore commonly performed at the time of lateral ankle stabilization. Anterior impingement (A) and osteochondral (B) lesions are shown here. Arthroscopy is useful despite the open procedure for stabilization as it affords better viewing of impingement lesions and access to the talar dome beyond what can be seen through the lateral open incision.

History and Physical Examination for Recurrent Lateral Ankle Instability

Preoperative workup should focus on identifying related intra-articular and extra-articular pathologies. Prior medical records should be reviewed regarding the original procedure, intraoperative findings, and postoperative rehabilitation protocol, which may provide insight into why the original procedure failed. The surgeon should identify if the patient did well after the original procedure and then had another traumatic ankle injury. This scenario is quite different from the that of the patient who never fully recovered after the prior LAS surgery. Physical examination should include range of motion of the ankle, subtalar, and midtarsal joints; gait assessment; and determination of weight-bearing alignment of the foot and ankle. Ligamentous laxity should be assessed by history and examination. Location of maximal tenderness on examination is very telling, especially to evaluate for pain on palpation of the peroneal tendons or of the sinus tarsi indicating STJ involvement.

Imaging Considerations and Stress Imaging Pearls

The authors’ routine radiographic protocol includes a 5-views weight-bearing foot and ankle series. This includes anterior-posterior and mortise ankle views plus 3 views of the foot. The lateral view in this series should fully image both the foot and ankle. Periankle accessory ossicles or an anterior tibial spur may be added sources of chronic pain in patients with ankle instability and should be evaluated on standard foot and ankle views. A long leg axial (LLA) view should be considered to better assess frontal plane alignment of the heel. The authors’ LLA imaging protocol has been previously published, which is beneficial to avoid inconsistent patient positioning, which can be misleading regarding true tibia to calcaneus alignment.4 True frontal plane tibia to calcaneus alignment is captured with both feet in angle and base of gait while standing with the foot at 90° to the leg. The central beam is at 45° to the floor with overlap of the tibia through the second metatarsal. Intraoperative LLA imaging can also capture the tibia through second metatarsal alignment for consistent imaging at all stages of care (Figure 18.2).

Figure 18.2 Long leg axial (LLA) imaging is used to assess frontal plane deformity through the leg, ankle, and rearfoot in patients with varus (A) and valgus (B) deformity.Note our preferred technique with imaging of the tibia through the second metatarsal, which can also be performed with intraoperative fluoroscopic LLA imaging (C).(Reprinted from Boffeli TJ, Waverly BJ. Angle and base of gait long leg axial and intraoperative simulated weightbearing long leg axial ­imaging to capture true frontal plane tibia to calcaneus alignment in valgus and varus deformities of the rearfoot and ankle. J Foot Ankle Surg. 2016;55(5):1043-1051. With permission from Elsevier.)

Figure 18.3 Stress inversion imaging can be performed preoperatively or intraoperatively to assess the function of the lateral collateral ligaments.Anterior drawer (A) and stress inversion (B) are shown here. Note abnormal anterior translocation of the talus and abnormal talar tilt, respectively. Stress inversion was performed after lateral ankle ligament reconstruction (C) confirming stability. Talar tilt of greater than 5° or 5° more than the contralateral ankle is consistent with laxity. Anterior drawer of greater than 2 mm compared with the contralateral ankle is consistent with laxity.

Figure 18.4 Advanced imaging most commonly starts with MRI to assess for intra- and extra-articular pathology.Identification of peroneal tendon disease (A) and osteochondral lesions (B) is common. CT imaging is frequently a secondary advanced study to further assess lesions of the talus, including integrity of the subchondral bone, as shown here (C). Weight-bearing CT imaging can provide further detail regarding varus (D) and valgus (E) deformity associated with DJD. Weight-bearing CT imaging is also useful to assess lateral impingement of the talus on the fibula and to rule out STJ DJD.

Is Generalized Ligamentous Laxity Present and Does This Change the Treatment?

Surgical treatment in the presence of generalized ligamentous laxity should focus on STJ arthrodesis where appropriate as an adjunctive procedure to correct cavus deformity. Native tissues should be supported with synthetic materials or at least cadaver tendon allografts when performing LAS.

Revision Lateral Ankle Stabilization

Revision surgery for lateral collateral ligament insufficiency typically involves anatomic repair along with augmentation procedures. Synthetic reinforcement provides increased mechanical resistance of the anatomical repair and enables early rehabilitation. A modified Brostrom procedure augmented with suture tape and bone anchors is an example of this. Tenodesis procedures using autograft or allograft for reconstruction can be completed using various tendons: Storen described using the Achilles; Niethard and Anderson described augmentation using the plantaris.6

Is Ankle Arthroscopy a Routine Component of Revision Lateral Ankle Stabilization?

Arthroscopic inspection and debridement of the ankle joint at the time of LAS may improve detection of impingement lesions and concomitant OCDs, which are common in patients with CAI. The open incision for LAS may not afford access or appropriate viewing of these lesions, and pathology can be missed when the surgeon peaks into the joint through the open LAS incision. Surgical pearls include using a modified nerve-centric incisional approach when performing combined LAS and arthroscopy of the ankle and STJ (Figure 18.5).

Figure 18.5 A modified nerve-centric longitudinal approach to lateral ankle stabilization is shown here as a dashed line crossing the sinus tarsi (A).This provides access for ankle stabilization with a broader bridge between the sensitive intermediate dorsal cutaneous and sural nerves when compared with the standard fibula hugging incision. The linear nature of the incision provides easy access to the talus when placing soft tissue anchors (B) and access to the subtalar joint for concomitant arthrodesis.

Arthroscopic lateral ligament repair with suture tape has similar sustained clinical outcomes compared with arthroscopic Brostrom-type reconstruction, but research is lacking when performing revision surgery.7 The arthroscopic approach may not make sense when revision surgery involves open reconstruction for deformity correction. Meticulous dissection is also necessary to avoid the sural and superficial peroneal nerves and peroneal tendons.8

Who Needs a Lateralizing Calcaneal Osteotomy?

Ongoing instability following primary lateral ligament repair is common in patients with cavus deformity with or without underlying neurologic disorder. Hindfoot varus malalignment and related forefoot deformity is prevalent in patients with ankle instability, and the surgeon should consider more complex reconstructions including osteotomies or arthrodesis when performing revision lateral ankle ligamentous repairs. Failure to correct hindfoot varus accounts for the most common reason for failure in isolated ligament reconstruction.9 For patients with fixed hindfoot deformity, or those with residual varus after midfoot surgery, a calcaneal osteotomy is indicated.

Figure 18.6 Incision clustering along the lateral foot and ankle can be problematic for reconstructive procedures.Access for ankle stabilization, heel osteotomy, peroneal tendon repair, subtalar joint arthrodesis, and arthroscopy is challenging. Separate incisions for the heel osteotomy and ankle stabilization need to straddle the sural nerve, which is prone to postoperative neuritis (A). A peroneal tendon-type incision behind the fibula can be used to provide access for tendon repair, Dwyer osteotomy, subtalar joint arthrodesis, ankle ligament reconstruction, and repair of subluxing peroneal tendons (B). This incision (represented by the dashed line) is superior and anterior to the sural nerve (represented by the dotted line). It is useful to perform lateral imaging with a Kirschner wire overlying the incision to assess the angle of the proposed osteotomy (C). Osteotomy guide pins can be placed from lateral to medial to define location and size of the Dwyer wedge on axial imaging (D). Note that the saw blade is imaged just behind the anterior k-wire, which confirms the desired cut line. The reduced Dwyer wedge is shown here with rectus heel alignment (E).(B, Reprinted from Boffeli TJ, Collier RC. Surgical technique for combined Dwyer calcaneal osteotomy and peroneal tendon repair for correction of peroneal tendon ­pathology associated with cavus foot deformity. J Foot Ankle Surg: official publication of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. 2012;51(1):135-140. With permission from Elsevier.)

Figure 18.7 A lateralizing heel osteotomy can also be used in cavus reconstruction, but the authors find it less effective owing to the actual varus curvature of the heel commonly seen with varus deformity.Mild lateral shift with through and through Dwyer wedge is shown here, which improves correction (A). Slight elevation through the osteotomy can also be performed as shown here to decrease heel height (B).

Does the Patient Need Major Cavus Foot Reconstruction?

Cavus and cavovarus deformity including forefoot valgus and heel varus should be assessed prior to formulating a revision surgery plan since underlying foot deformity can be a primary cause of failed prior surgery and heel osteotomy alone may be insufficient. The Coleman “block test” can be used to determine whether hindfoot varus is reducible or not and to determine the impact of forefoot valgus on rearfoot alignment. The peroneal tendons should be palpated and assessed for pain, swelling, weakness, subluxation, or other instability. Metatarsus adductus, hammertoe deformity, and a heightened medial longitudinal arch are common. Ankle joint range of motion should include the Silverskiold test to determine if gastrocnemius and/or soleal equinus is present; outcomes will determine if a gastrocnemius recession or tendo-Achilles lengthening procedure is warranted.

Assessment for supramalleolar deformity is important since varus malalignment of the tibial plafond may be treated with opening-wedge supramalleolar tibial osteotomies with fibular osteotomies with or without calcaneal osteotomy, midfoot osteotomy, or arthrodesis. In these cases, the lateral ankle ligament reconstruction may not be necessary. Failures in supramalleolar osteotomies may involve osseous undercorrection of the fibular deformity, ligamentous insufficiency, and significant intra-articular arthritis. All aspects of the cavovarus deformity need to be corrected to avoid chronic instability and continuous pain and deformity.11

Considerations of First Metatarsal Dorsiflexory Wedge Osteotomy Versus Midfoot Arthrodesis

A primary deforming force in forefoot-driven cavus deformity is a plantarflexed first metatarsal associated with an overactive peroneus longus tendon. In addition, a tight, shorter, more medial Achilles tendon will exacerbate the varus deformity. A dorsiflexory wedge osteotomy (DFWO) of the first metatarsal may correct forefoot-driven cavus deformities, especially when combined with peroneus longus to brevis transfer and plantar fascial release (Figure 18.8). Midfoot arthrodesis incorporating dorsal wedge osteotomy allows correction of forefoot to rearfoot deformity in the frontal, sagittal, and coronal planes for cases with more global midfoot cavus deformity (Figure 18.9).

Figure 18.8 Correction of midfoot deformity can be achieved with dorsiflexory wedge osteotomy (DFWO) for patients with a rigidly plantarflexed first metatarsal (A and B).This is commonly performed in conjunction with plantar fascial release and the peroneus longus to brevis tendon switch (C). Pins are similarly used to map out the osteotomy (D), and a dorsally based wedge is removed (E). Fixation typically involves 2 screws (F and G). Postoperative lateral imaging demonstrates dorsal elevation of the first metatarsal (H).

Figure 18.9 Midfoot arthrodesis is commonly performed with wedge osteotomy through the arthrodesis site for severe cavus deformity (A and B).This can be performed through the midtarsal joint, naviculocuneiform joints, or through the tarsometatarsal joints.

How to Identify and Treat Subtalar Joint Pain and Instability

It is important to evaluate the STJ in patients with CAI through direct palpation of the sinus tarsi and assessing range of motion to determine if STJ involvement might be a source of pain or instability. Despite prior ankle ligament repair, the patient may describe CAI symptoms due to chronic impingement or instability of the STJ. Failure to recognize this may lead to failure to relieve pain with revision surgery. Local anesthetic injection into the sinus tarsi can be a useful therapeutic and diagnostic test to localize pain and to assess if a subtalar arthroscopy or arthrodesis would be appropriate. Cervical ligament tears and interosseous talocalcaneal ligament tears can be assessed best on arthroscopy but may also be identified on MRI. Arthroscopic debridement of the sinus tarsi is a useful adjunctive procedure to LAS, and patients with pain on palpation of the sinus tarsi that resolves with diagnostic sinus tarsi injection should be considered for arthroscopic debridement.

Only gold members can continue reading. Log In or Register to continue

Stay updated, free articles. Join our Telegram channel

Oct 22, 2022 | Posted by in ORTHOPEDIC | Comments Off on Revision Surgery for Failed Medial and Lateral Ligament Repair of the Hindfoot and Ankle

Full access? Get Clinical Tree

Get Clinical Tree app for offline access