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Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2010 May;18(5):594-600. doi: 10.1007/s00167-010-1089-1. Epub 2010 Mar 9.

Anterior ankle arthroscopy, distraction or dorsiflexion?

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Academic Medical Center, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Amsterdam, PO Box 22700, 1100 DE Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Anterior ankle arthroscopy can basically be performed by two different methods; the dorsiflexion- or distraction method. The objective of this study was to determine the size of the anterior working area for both the dorsiflexion and distraction method. The anterior working area is anteriorly limited by the overlying anatomy which includes the neurovascular bundle. We hypothesize that in ankle dorsiflexion the anterior neurovascular bundle will move away anteriorly from the ankle joint, whereas in ankle distraction the anterior neurovascular bundle is pulled tight towards the joint, thereby decreasing the safe anterior working area. Six fresh frozen ankle specimens, amputated above the knee, were scanned with computed tomography. Prior to scanning the anterior tibial artery was injected with contrast fluid and subsequently each ankle was scanned both in ankle dorsiflexion and in distraction. A special device was developed to reproducibly obtain ankle dorsiflexion and distraction in the computed tomography scanner. The distance between the anterior border of the inferior tibial articular facet and the posterior border of the anterior tibial artery was measured. The median distance from the anterior border of the inferior tibial articular facet to the posterior border of the anterior tibial artery in ankle dorsiflexion and distraction was 0.9 cm (range 0.7-1.5) and 0.7 cm (range 0.5-0.8), respectively. The distance in ankle dorsiflexion significantly exceeded the distance in ankle distraction (P = 0.03). The current study shows a significantly increased distance between the anterior distal tibia and the overlying anterior neurovascular bundle with the ankle in a slightly dorsiflexed position as compared to the distracted ankle position. We thereby conclude that the distracted ankle position puts the neurovascular structures more at risk for iatrogenic damage when performing anterior ankle arthroscopy.

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