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Scientific Articles   |    
Vascular Anatomy of the Tibiofibular Syndesmosis
Kathleen E. McKeon, MD1; Rick W. Wright, MD1; Jeffrey E. Johnson, MD1; Jeremy J. McCormick, MD1; Sandra E. Klein, MD1
1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, One Barnes-Jewish Hospital Plaza, Suite 11300 West Pavilion, Campus Box 8233, St. Louis, MO 63110. E-mail address for S.E. Klein: kleins@wustl.edu
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Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri



Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. None of the authors, or their institution(s), have had any financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with any entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. Also, no author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 May 16;94(10):931-938. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00604
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Abstract

Background: 

Injuries to the tibiofibular syndesmosis commonly cause prolonged ankle pain and disability. Syndesmotic injuries are associated with slower healing rates compared with rates for other ankle ligament injuries and typically result in longer time away from sports. To our knowledge, the vascular supply to the syndesmosis and its clinical implication have not previously been studied. The purpose of this study was to describe the vascular supply to the tibiofibular syndesmosis with use of a method of chemical debridement of cadaveric specimens.

Methods: 

Twenty-five matched pairs of adult cadaver legs, fifty legs total, were amputated below the knee. India ink, followed by Ward Blue Latex, was injected into the anterior tibial, peroneal, and posterior tibial arteries under constant manual pressure to elucidate the vascular supply of the ankle syndesmotic ligaments. Chemical debridement was performed with 6.0% sodium hypochlorite to remove soft tissue, leaving bones, ligaments, and casts of the vascular anatomy intact. The vascular supply to the syndesmosis was evaluated and recorded.

Results: 

The anterior vascularity of the syndesmosis was clearly visualized in forty-three of fifty specimens. The peroneal artery supplied an anterior branch (the perforating branch) that perforated the interosseous membrane, an average of 3 cm proximal to the ankle joint. This branch provided the primary vascular supply to the anterior ligaments in twenty-seven specimens (63%). The anterior tibial artery provided additional contribution to the anterior ligaments in the remaining sixteen specimens (37%).

Conclusions: 

The location of the perforating branch of the peroneal artery places it at risk when injury to the syndesmosis extends to the interosseous membrane 3 cm proximal to the ankle joint. In the majority of specimens, injury to this vessel would result in loss of the primary blood supply to the anterior ligaments.

Clinical Relevance: 

The vascular supply to the anterior syndesmotic ligaments may be damaged in ankle syndesmotic injuries and may explain the delayed healing that is seen clinically.

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    References

    Accreditation Statement
    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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