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Altered Fibular Growth Patterns After Tibiofibular Synostosis in Children
Steven L. Frick, MD; Scott Shoemaker, MD; Scott J. Mubarak, MD
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Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Children's Hospital-San Diego and University of California at San Diego, San Diego, California
Steven L. Frick, MD Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Carolinas Medical Center, P.O. Box 38261, Charlotte, NC 28232. E-mail address: sfrick@carolinas.org
Scott Shoemaker, MD Scott J. Mubarak, MD Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Children's Hospital-San Diego, 3030 Children's Way, San Diego, CA 92123-4208
No benefits in any form have been received or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article. No funds were received in support of this study.

J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2001 Feb 01;83(2):247-247
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Background: Iatrogenic synostosis of the tibia and fibula following an operation on the leg in a child has been reported rarely in the literature, and the effects of this complication on future growth, alignment, and function are not known. This is a retrospective case series, from one institution, of crossunions of the distal parts of the tibia and fibula complicating operations on the leg in children. The purpose is to alert surgeons to this possible complication.

Methods: The senior author identified eight cases of iatrogenic tibiofibular synostosis seen in children since 1985. The patients had various diagnoses and were from the practices of four pediatric orthopaedic surgeons. Synostosis developed in six patients after osteotomies of the distal parts of the tibia and fibula, in one after internal fixation of distal tibial and fibular metaphyseal fractures through a single incision, and in one after posterior transfer of the anterior tibialis tendon through the interosseous membrane combined with peroneus brevis transfer to the calcaneus. Medical records were reviewed, and preoperative and follow-up radiographs were analyzed for changes in the relative positions of the proximal and distal tibial and fibular physes and in the alignment of the ankle.

Results: Five patients were symptomatic after crossunion; they presented with prominence of the proximal part of the fibula, ankle deformity, or ankle pain. Three patients were asymptomatic, and a synostosis was identified on routine follow-up radiographs. Intraoperative technical errors caused two of the crossunions; the cause of the others was unknown. Following tibiofibular synostosis, growth disturbances were noted radiographically in every patient. The normal growth pattern of distal migration of the fibula relative to the tibia was reversed, resulting in a decreased distance between the proximal physes of the tibia and fibula as well as proximal migration of the distal fibular physis relative to the distal part of the tibia. Shortening of the lateral malleolus led to greater valgus alignment of the ankle.

Conclusions: Tibiofibular synostosis can complicate an operation on the leg in a child. After crossunion, the normal distal movement of the fibula relative to the tibia is disrupted, resulting in shortening of the lateral malleolus and ankle valgus as well as prominence of the fibular head at the knee. The synostosis also interferes with the normal motion that occurs between the tibia and fibula with weight-bearing, potentially leading to ankle pain.

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    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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