Background: Rupture of the tibialis anterior tendon is an uncommon disorder that can cause a substantial functional deficit as a result of loss of ankle dorsiflexion strength. We are not aware of any reports on a large clinical series of patients undergoing surgical repair of this injury.
Methods: Nineteen tibialis anterior tendon ruptures were surgically repaired in eighteen patients ranging in age from twenty-one to seventy-eight years. Early repair was performed for one traumatic and seven atraumatic ruptures three days to six weeks after the injury. Delayed reconstruction was performed for two traumatic and nine atraumatic ruptures that had been present for seven weeks to five years. Direct tendon repair was possible for four of the early repairs and three of the delayed reconstructions. An interpositional autogenous tendon graft was used for four early repairs and eight delayed reconstructions. Patients were reassessed clinically and with the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society hindfoot score at an average of 53.3 months after surgery.
Results: The average hindfoot score improved significantly from 55.5 points preoperatively to 93.6 points postoperatively. The surgical results did not appear to vary according to patient age, sex, or medical comorbidity. Complications requiring a second surgical procedure occurred in three patients. Recovery of functional dorsiflexion and improvement in gait was noted in eighteen of the nineteen cases. Ankle dorsiflexion strength was graded clinically as 5/5 in fifteen of the nineteen cases. Three patients regained 4/5 ankle dorsiflexion strength, and one patient had 3/5 strength with a poor clinical result.
Conclusions: Surgical restoration of the function of the tibialis anterior muscle can be beneficial regardless of age, sex, medical comorbidity, or delay in diagnosis. Early surgical treatment may be less complicated than delayed treatment, and an intercalated free tendon graft and/or gastrocnemius recession may be necessary to achieve an appropriately tensioned and balanced repair.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.