Originally known as posterior tibial tendon dysfunction or insufficiency, adult-acquired flatfoot
deformity encompasses a wide range of deformities. These deformities vary in location, severity, and rate of progression. Establishing a diagnosis as early as possible is one of the most important
factors in treatment. Prompt early, aggressive nonsurgical management is important. A patient in whom such treatment fails should strongly consider surgical correction to avoid worsening of the
deformity. In all four stages of deformity, the goal of surgery is to achieve proper alignment and maintain as much flexibility as possible in the foot and ankle complex. However, controversy remains
as to how to manage flexible deformities, especially those that are severe.
Several risk factors are associated with PTT dysfunction, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, previous ankle surgery or trauma and exposure to steroids. A person who suspects that they
are suffering from PTT dysfunction should seek medical attention earlier rather than later. It is much easier to treat early and avoid a collapsed arch than it is to repair one. When the pain first
happens and there is no significant flatfoot deformity, initial treatments include rest, oral anti-inflammatory medications and, depending on the severity, a special boot or brace.
At first you may notice pain and swelling along the medial (big toe) side of the foot. This is where the posterior tibialis tendon travels from the back of the leg under the medial ankle bone to the
foot. As the condition gets worse, tendon failure occurs and the pain gets worse. Some patients experience pain along the lateral (outside) edge of the foot, too. You may find that your feet hurt at
the end of the day or after long periods of standing. Some people with this condition have trouble rising up on their toes. They may be unable to participate fully in sports or other recreational
Although you can do the "wet test" at home, a thorough examination by a doctor will be needed to identify why the flatfoot developed. Possible causes include a congenital abnormality, a bone fracture
or dislocation, a torn or stretched tendon, arthritis or neurologic weakness. For example, an inability to rise up on your toes while standing on the affected foot may indicate damage to the
posterior tibial tendon (PTT), which supports the heel and forms the arch. If "too many toes" show on the outside of your foot when the doctor views you from the rear, your shinbone (tibia) may be
sliding off the anklebone (talus), another indicator of damage to the PTT. Be sure to wear your regular shoes to the examination. An irregular wear pattern on the bottom of the shoe is another
indicator of acquired adult flatfoot. Your physician may request X-rays to see how the bones of your feet are aligned. Muscle and tendon strength are tested by asking you to move the foot while the
doctor holds it.
Non surgical Treatment
Footwear has an important role, and patients should be encouraged to wear flat lace-up shoes, or even lace-up boots, which accommodate orthoses. Stage I patients may be able to manage with an off the
shelf orthosis (such as an Orthaheel or Formthotics). They can try a laced canvas ankle brace before moving to a casted orthosis. The various casted, semirigid orthoses support the medial
longitudinal arch of the foot and either hold the heel in a neutral alignment (stage I) or correct the outward bent heel to a neutral alignment (stage II). This approach is meant to serve several
functions: to alleviate stress on the tibialis posterior; to make gait more efficient by holding the hindfoot fixed; and thirdly, to prevent progression of deformity. Devices available to do this are
the orthosis of the University of California Biomechanics Laboratory, an ankle foot orthosis, or a removable boot. When this approach has been used, two thirds of patients have good to excellent
Until recently, operative treatment was indicated for most patients with stage 2 deformities. However, with the use of potentially effective nonoperative management , operative treatment is now
indicated for those patients that have failed nonoperative management. The principles of operative treatment of stage 2 deformities include transferring another tendon to help serve the role of the
dysfunctional posterior tibial tendon (usually the flexor hallucis longus is transferred). Restoring the shape and alignment of the foot. This moves the weight bearing axis back to the center of the
ankle. Changing the shape of the foot can be achieved by one or more of the following procedures. Cutting the heel bone and shifting it to the inside (Medializing calcaneal osteotomy). Lateral column
lengthening restores the arch and overall alignment of the foot. Medial column stabilization. This stiffens the ray of the big toe to better support the arch. Lengthening of the Achilles tendon or
Gastrocnemius. This will allow the ankle to move adequately once the alignment of the foot is corrected. Stage 3 acquired adult flatfoot deformity is treated operatively with a hindfoot fusion
(arthrodesis). This is done with either a double or triple arthrodesis - fusion of two or three of the joints in hindfoot through which the deformity occurs. It is important when a hindfoot
arthrodesis is performed that it be done in such a way that the underlying foot deformity is corrected first. Simply fusing the hindfoot joints in place is no longer acceptable.